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WWJD – What Would Juno Do?


You might remember the movie. A girl gets pregnant and instead of getting an abortion she carries the baby to term and gives her baby up for adoption.

Do you remember that interesting little girl standing outside the abortion clinic talking about the babies’ fingernails? I am that weird little girl in a grown man’s body. Hopefully, we can continue to agree or disagree amicably and really sharpen one another in our thinking on controversial issues. Opinions are like religions in that, as they say, ‘every one thinks their opinion is the right one or they would get a new opinion’ (even when we think there is no such thing as a right or wrong opinion that is our opinion that we think is right 😉 ).

I think I’m right on this issue but I could be wrong.

Regardless, in this post I want us to consider the question:

What Would Juno Do? We can even make bracelets and bumper stickers at the end of this; we will make a fortune with the pro-life crowd.


Should abortion be morally permissible? Many in our culture answer this question with an emphatic yes. To respond in the negative is to oppose Women’s rights while simultaneously imposing your morality on other people. If you want to witness how intolerant our tolerant society can be attempt to do either of these two things.

In fact, given our cultural situation in Canada what is the chance that a young person will hear a defense of the pro-life position that is not argued by a zealous religious person quoting a sacred book whose authority they don’t acknowledge? Rare, I would think. As a result, here is my attempt:

Let me suggest two crucial questions that cut to the heart of the issue:

(1)  Do Human beings possess intrinsic moral value?

(2)  Is the developing Fetus a human being?

Intrinsic value means that something, or someone, is valuable if it is an end in itself, not merely a means to some other end. Most people believe that human beings are valuable in and of themselves, not simply as a means to some other end. This is why I believe we should love people and use possessions rather than use people as possessions. As pointed out in another post this is one of Kant’s categorical imperatives.

Affirming this intuitive moral principle provides a rational basis from which to condemn murder, rape, racism, sexism and oppression. It is enshrined in the ‘United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, which means this principle is widely accepted across diverse cultures.

In addition, I believe it to be impossible to build any coherent moral framework without ascribing to this basic moral principle. I realize the last sentence is an assertion, not an argument, but I would challenge anyone to try and build a coherent moral framework from a deontological, or a utilitarian ethic, without leaning on this concept explicitly or implicitly (i.e. any talk about what is good for society, or the greatest number, will lead to talk about human flourishing and as soon as we ask, ‘why is this good’? we are back to affirming the intrinsic value of human life). If human beings don’t have intrinsic value, then it appears impossible to consistently condemn most heinous acts of violence or aggression against persons.

Is the developing Fetus a human being?

Well, it is not a dog, cat or fish.

It is undeniable that from the moment of conception the ‘zygote’ is a genetically complete human being, which if left to develop naturally will grow into a human member of the species (miscarriages aside). At the moment of conception sex, eye color, body type, and hair color are all determined and waiting to develop.

This is, of course, completely different than sperm, or an unfertilized egg. Neither the sperm, nor the egg constitute a human life because each is genetically incomplete and if left alone won’t develop into anything. A Sperm or an egg is the potential of a human life. A fetus (Latin for ‘little one’), however, is a human life at the beginning of development.

Let’s not forget the pro-choice position doesn’t just make possible abortions shortly after conception. Instead, abortions are permissible all the way through the pregnancy in some places. Until just recently partial birth abortions were practiced in the west where the baby was partially delivered, their skull was pierced, and the brain was sucked out. I know it is brutal, but honesty requires we face the facts. Consistent pro-choice philosophy opens the door for a practice like this, even though it has recently been banned, and many pro-choice advocates would be appalled by it.

I’ve read that many pregnancies are detected at around the 8th week (this just happened with my wife and I – we had no idea ‘we’ were pregnant) and by then we aren’t just dealing with a cluster of cells but a very tiny baby with a face and features. A pro-choice video called “The Gift of Choice” claims that the unborn is ‘a probability of a future person’. But as  pro-life writer, Randy Alcorn points out, “what’s left after an abortion are small but perfectly formed body parts- arms and legs, hands and feet, torso and head. The physical remains indicate the end not of a potential life but an actual life. If you don’t believe this examine the remains of an abortion. If you cannot bear to look, ask yourself why.”

You can find these pictures on the Internet but it is brutal and I’m not sure I would recommend it.

At 8 weeks all of the organs of the body are already present, and the muscle and circulatory systems are complete. Brain wave activity is also present. The baby is already moving by clenching and unclenching her little fists and curling her toes. Many abortions occur between the 10 and 12th week of pregnancy. So there are two bodies involved in an abortion, not just the mothers. The fetus isn’t like an appendix – it is a biologically distinct, complete living being that is hooked up to the mom for life support.

In addition, separating pregnancy into three trimesters is arbitrary and has no basis in medical science. It seems to me that coming out of the womb shouldn’t magically transform a fetus into a human being. A baby’s moral value and intrinsic worth isn’t bestowed suddenly upon birth. To claim exiting the womb suddenly and magically confers intrinsic worth and moral value on the baby is completely arbitrary and lacks credible philosophical and medical underpinnings. If you can’t kill a baby outside of the womb, why can we end the life of a baby inside of the womb?

Is abortion okay because the baby is inside the mother? Why should that matter? Babies can survive outside of the womb before coming to full term (i.e. around 24 weeks). Anyways,  why should independence or dependance on the mom confer, or take away, the intrinsic moral value of the child?

Again, to draw a line anywhere in the nine months were we say, ‘not a human being with moral value’, to ‘now a human being with moral value’, has no basis in medical science.

Person’s Have Moral Value

Not so fast. Now, some philosopher’s, being unable to escape the scientific facts about the fetus, have contended that it is ‘persons’ who have moral value. Human beings don’t have intrinsic moral value simply because they are a member of the species, but human ‘persons’ do.

A person is someone who is self-conscious. A ‘fetus’ is not a person and it is, therefore, morally acceptable to terminate a fetus. To be a person, who has intrinsic moral value, you need to be functioning as a person, which requires ‘self-consciousness’, independence, or participation in a moral community. A fetus doesn’t count.

The problem with this proposed escape hatch for legitimizing abortion is that the exact same reasoning can be used to justify infanticide. Newborns are not self-conscious, or independent either and, given this definition of personhood, they would not be persons with moral value.

The above position on abortion could be used to justify infanticide, which has been advocated by some, particularly in regard to disabled children (i.e. well known philosopher Peter Singer – Should the baby live?). I should add, many disabled people, even extremely disabled people, have a quality of life; I have one in my family and I can testify to this.

Anyways, it may take a year or so (philosophers, I think, are still unsure) to develop self-consciousness which means that at any time during this developmental stage it would be morally permissible for parents to allow their children to die (given the above logic). Most pro-choice advocates would reject the above logic but it is consistent, albeit controversial.

The Moral Inconsistency of Pro-choice?

In America a news story broke about many women desiring male children over and above female children (this issue was also mentioned in another post). As a result of this preference women were finding out the sex of their child in the womb and aborting the baby if it was female. The response to this true story was one of moral outrage. Not surprisingly, the pro-life crowd condemned this practice in no uncertain terms.

The response of the pro-choice crowd was also incredibly negative. What was curious is the reason why pro-choice advocates were condemning the practice. Upon first reflection you would think the pro-choice proponents would have no grounds for opposing this practice. After all, it seems that to be pro-choice means the woman has the right to choose what she does with the life in her womb free of constraints or outside interference.

Here was the reasoning:

“Having abortions for this reason is wrong because it is sexist. Targeting female fetuses and aborting them specifically because they are female is anti-women, and it must end”.

This is why some hospitals refuse to tell parents the sex of the child. Let me pose a few questions for your consideration, “How can this practice be anti-women if the fetus is not a person to begin with’? Isn’t the fetus just a bunch of cells, or the potential of a human being? If the fetus is not human in any moral sense than there can be nothing wrong with targeting fetus’ male or female.

Do you see the moral inconsistency?


I’d like to avoid this issue but we can’t duck the hard topics. This is a tragic circumstance. It would help if I were a woman at this point. But I am not. Let us just remember that we critique an idea, we don’t attack the gender of the person holding it. To do so would be committing the ad Hominen fallacy. Many women do in fact hold the below position, even women who have experienced sexual assault resulting in pregnancy.

I can’t imagine the type of physical and emotional pain this type of reprehensible act would cause the victim. If a woman got an abortion as the result of a rape I would have great sympathy. In fact, I would have great sympathy for any woman who has gotten an abortion. I’ve had friends who have terminated their pregnancies. Moreover, I co-lead a group, in which some women are dealing with past abortions. I don’t think this makes them bad people, simply victims of a bad philosophy. But a couple of things can be said about the controversial issue of abortion and rape:

Firstly, any answer given on paper will likely seem cold and uncaring. However, even in emotionally heated situations like this one we need to think clearly. And I don’t think we can use an extreme circumstance like rape to validate all abortions because this is clearly an erroneous line of reasoning. The rape victim and the person who willfully had unprotected sex are not in the same category.

In this situation, it is important we come back to the two questions we asked at the beginning of this blog post. ‘Do human beings have intrinsic moral value?’ And ‘is the developing fetus a human being?’ I think the answer is clearly ‘yes’ to both of these questions for the philosophical and scientific reasons mentioned above.

Obviously, rape and abortion are not the same. But rape is morally wrong for one of the same reasons that abortion is morally wrong. Both rape and abortion are acts of violence against innocent humans beings, assaulting the inherent worth and dignity of their personhood (or potential personhood).

Please don’t misunderstand me. Of course, of course, of course, the woman having an abortion does not accrue the moral blame that the rapist does. They are NOT equivalent in this sense, because there is not the same intentionality involved and I believe the woman having the abortion is also a victim of bad philosophy and convincing propaganda. She needs compassion not judgment or name calling.

Given the intrinsic moral value of the ‘little one’, even in the instance of rape abortion would be morally wrong. Again, this can seem like a harsh thing to write. What a difficult sentence to impose on a rape victim! A nine-month reminder of the crime that was committed against them. I understand that reaction but as a child I learned that two wrong don’t make a right and I think that is one idea we shouldn’t outgrow.

In my short life I’ve already seen many bad situations turn out for the good.  This is not always the case, of course, but the point is we don’t know. For example, I am NOT saying that the woman has to raise the child resulting from the crime committed against her. She could, however, give the child up for adoption and make another couples dream for a baby come true. This child, who was the product of violence, could grow up to do great things that benefit humanity, or at the very least be a blessing to a family who wants a child. I’ve read some stories like this but it would involve a courageous choice by the mother that couldn’t be forced on her.

This one tugs on your hearts strings. I understand the desire to make abortion permissible given a sexual assault but I don’t think it is right for the above reasons. I will say, however, if our society only allowed abortion in the case of rape, or to save a mother’s life, that would be a small step towards a more morally acceptable approach to the issue of abortion in my opinion.

The Mother’s Health

What if the life of the mother is threatened and she will die if the fetus isn’t terminated? In this situation, either the baby dies, the mother dies, or both the mother and the baby die. If the choice is between two lives being lost or only one life being lost we should choose the option that preserves the mother’s life in my opinion (though I guess it is up to the mom and the family).

But it is still a tragic decision because a human life has been lost. I don’t know if I would label this an abortion. I might call it a rescue operation where not all lives could possibly be saved so a hard decision is made.

The above situation has, of course, occurred. I have a friend whose family faced this difficult choice and if the doctor hadn’t saved the mother my friend wouldn’t be here. I should, however, mention that I dislike the tendency in ethical discussions to introduce extreme situations that are legitimate gray areas when the intention of said examples is to muddy people’s moral reasoning and blur the lines between right and wrong.

They truth is the majority of abortions that are performed are not to save a mother’s life and/or terminate the result of a rape.

The Beauty Of Choice

Choice is a beautiful thing. So is freedom. So are women’s rights. But I don’t think anyone should be free, or have the right, to choose whether or not to put to death an innocent human being. Ask yourself, ‘are any of the below reasons good enough to justify taking the life of an innocent human being’?

A mother unable to cope with a child, poverty, a means of regulating population, a mother’s mental health (let’s not forget that abortion can have damaging affects on a mother’s mental health anyway, regardless of their religious perspective. I have a front row seat to this), a disability, or a rape. Again, if the fetus is a human being, who is innocent, do any of the above reasons justify taking the babies life?

If your answer is ‘yes’, think through the implications of the position you are embracing. Would you want it consistently applied to other situations?

Every child should be a wanted child so let’s learn to want our children as a society not terminated them before they get a chance at life outside of the womb.

To oppose abortion doesn’t need to lead to back alley abortions if more monies are funneled into programs that provide support and encouragement for single, or young moms in particular, who are willing to carry their child to term. In addition, continued awareness of the availability of birth control would continue to bring down the risk of unwanted pregnancies.

Well, that is the best I can do on a blog. It’s already too long. Feel free to disagree. Dang, that was a ton of work. And I don’t even get a grade.

Remember WWJD – What Would Juno Do? Thanks for letting me act like the weird girl in the film Juno.



About Chris Price

Pastor at Calvarybaptist.ca


11 thoughts on “WWJD – What Would Juno Do?

  1. Is it pathetic to be the first person to comment on your own blog post?

    Quite possibly. Oh well. see below:

    “Obviously, rape and abortion are not the same. But rape is morally wrong for one of the same reasons that abortion is morally wrong. Both rape and abortion are acts of violence against innocent humans beings, assaulting the inherent worth and dignity of their personhood (or potential personhood).

    Please don’t misunderstand me. Of course, of course, of course, the woman having an abortion does not accrue the moral blame that the rapist does. They are NOT equivalent in this sense, because there is not the same intentionality involved and I believe the woman having the abortion is also a victim of bad philosophy and convincing propaganda.”

    If I could do the post again I would take out the above two paragraphs. They aren’t really necessary and can be misunderstood. It is rhetorically charged to label abortion as ‘an act of violence’ and I’m not sure I’m happy with that word choice. And regardless of the emphatic statement that ‘rape and abortion are not the same’ to compare them in this way might be unnecessarily offensive, or misunderstood by unsympathetic readers.

    Anyways. These paragraphs require careful reading and if I had another go I would delete them both.


    Posted by Chris Price | December 12, 2012, 5:27 pm
  2. Thanks, Chris for this humble and articulate post that makes such a thoughtful case for the ‘Pro-Life’ angle on The Abortion Issue. I think we see and hear a lot from both sides of this coin that don’t make nearly this clear-headed an approach to something that hits so close to home for so many people, whether they have a ‘dog in the fight,’ so to speak, or are anywhere near the difficult conversations and decisions surrounding individual abortions. I think you frame the issue beautifully with your opening questions, and the arguments you use to support your position; so much so that I think it is possible to still come away with an opposing point of view, and yet have gained significant appreciation for the contrary. This is valuable if we are expected to co-exist in a society where people who have differing opinions about issues must all manage to live together amicably and respectfully, even in disagreement.

    I think our democracy, while built around the mechanics of majority rule, is founded in the possibility that discourse might offer an opportunity to develop consensus, whereby the law of the land provides a structure that strives to accomodate even opposing viewpoints; even while there may be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the short term, the arc of history hopefully provides a Darwinian construct for a true pluralism of values to be realized. Which is why the abortion discussion provides so much strife, I think, as even the terms of the debate – “Pro Life” vs. “Pro Choice” – make the notion of consensus all but impossible (how could one be “Against Life,” or “Anti-Choice”?). Like I said to you on Twitter yesterday, I think the difficult but interesting work comes in creating a context of understanding whereby there aren’t ‘sides’ anymore, but a community of people living under terms they can agree are the best for all of us, given the realities of our time.

    I’m not sure if much of the above makes too much sense, but where I am heading with this is the idea that both camps here agree broadly in their sentiments about abortion: we all wish they weren’t necessary (as you point out in the Mother’s Health section above), or didn’t seem in some cases to be the lesser of two evils (as in cases of rape, incest, or other situations into which a child’s access to a life of happiness or opportunity would almost surely be compromised), and that in a perfect world just wouldn’t happen. But in reality this just isn’t the case, and while some of the reasons this is so are outlined in some of the caveats you provide, just what constitutes a ‘rescue operation where only one of the lives could be saved’ is a decision often made between parents, doctors and others within that intimate sphere. Similarly to elements of the Euthanasia debate, the morality of such decisions is difficult, if not impossible, to judge from ‘outside.’

    Admittedly, this is ‘morally inconsistent;’ but so are many aspects of our modern world (war, the death penalty, welfare that doesn’t provide people a healthy or safe lifestyle that provides an equality of opportunity, as a few examples), and to some degree I think we would agree that it is unfortunate when the State takes it upon itself to decide such heavy, personal questions as to the worth of a life, or determining when a life is a life (drafting young men and women to die in a war with little identifiable purpose seems a similar infringement on our personal liberty). But we manage to abide by these inconsistencies and push back against them in the ways that we can (protest, political involvement, etc) such that we reach a ‘workable’ pluralism of values: most of us can agree that we need an Armed Forces; we are told that war and strife is, at certain points in history is ‘unavoidable;’ and therefore, occasionally, we will call on these young people to enact the unthinkable upon others.

    To apply your own concluding phrase, if we can agree that all soldiers, on either side are “human being[s] who [are] innocent, do any of [our] reasons [for war] justify taking [their] lives?” I would argue that they don’t, and yet I’ve had a few friends be deployed (some more than once) to war zones, not all of whom returned.

    Similarly – I think – we find throughout history that abortions, either by way of medical necessity or other, less outwardly tangible rationale, are a (most difficult) reality of life and death, and beyond judging the morality of our reality (as an aside: if Christopher Hitchens were still alive, I would love him to write that book: “The Morality of Our Reality”), it is up to our democratic institutions to create the conditions by which we might ease the suffering of their constituents. This doesn’t solely rely on the availability of abortions, and I think you raise a few other points that would greatly ease the number of ‘unnecessary’ abortions: better sex education, prevention and support, chiefly for the vulnerable members of our society who might look to abortion as a means of post-conception-contraception. Even still, some abortions would likely still be a part of the picture, and it sounds like even from your side that agree with this underlying reality.

    Which brings me back to the idea that began this (lengthy) comment: that I think both sides tend to agree more than they might think about the nature of the issue. I heard Bill Clinton say something along the lines of the following: “abortions should be safe, legal and rare.” While we might engage in thoughtful discourse to establish the parameters of legality surrounding abortion (which both US and Canadian law address somewhat clumsily by way of Supreme Court decisions rather than by democratic legislation), there is a lot to be said for the fact that, whether “Pro Life” or “Pro Choice,” we all wish that the abortions that will inevitably come to pass are both rare, and safe. I think this basis of agreement is something that both sides should keep in mind if we hope to work together in building our society, and fostering a democracy that delivers on a promise of consensus, rather than victory.

    Thanks again for this post. We’re lucky to have your thoughts and giving nature along for our exploration of these and other topics this semester.

    And who knows, maybe they’ll put you in the Juno sequel. Two-no?

    I think so.

    Posted by Mr. J | December 12, 2012, 6:10 pm
    • A Couple Of Quick Thoughts:

      Firstly, I would love to be in Juno 2 and I would enjoy meeting Ellen Page. Secondly, I would be happy if Christopher Hitchens was still alive to write many books, or Vanity Fair articles.

      Thirdly, I think your response is reasonable, helpful, charitable and fair minded. For example, what you say about the terms pro-choice and pro-life is bang on and insightful. Those labels aren’t helpful.

      Fourthly, despite some overlap, isn’t there a difference between euthanasia, the causalities of war and abortion? Isn’t there a distinction to be made between justifiable killing (death penalty perhaps, combatants in war) and murder? Murder involving malicious intent to harm the innocent. Two soldiers meeting on the battle field is different than a man taking the life of a little girl. I think almost everyone agrees with that moral distinction.

      (I realize this was not your point, which had to do with inconsistencies in approaches to various, difficult, moral questions. It is possible to be consistent, I believe, and support abortion but I think there is inconsistencies with position that sometimes rear their head in situations like the one described in my post in a way that do not occur in the just war discussion, or even euthanasia).

      Anyways, I won’t, of course, label abortion murder but surely an innocent human life is being ended in a way that is not equivalent to soldiers dying in war, a criminal dying on death row, or an adult choosing to end their life.

      A lot of things will happen that we wish wouldn’t happen. Abortions included. Agreed. It is wonderful that you point out that this is a ‘bridge’ between the ‘sides’ that is often lost in heated discussions where we demonize the other position.

      But my frustration is since 73 there have been around 50 million abortions in (I think) America alone. Is the Fetus a human life or not? If it is, then that is a tragedy that we can’t turn a blind eye too. That certainly isn’t rare.

      If we are going to make abortion rare (Clinton) do we limit its availability to rape and incest victims, in addition, to saving the life of a mother (which, again, I’m not sure I would call abortion). As I wrote, that would be a step forward in my view. However, the question still becomes ‘why is abortion wrong, or not available in other less extreme cases’? Is it because the fetus is a human being with intrinsic moral value? Then I think the above comments on two wrongs making a right would still apply to the more extreme situations.

      This may be why there is some hesitancy amongst those supporting abortion to limit access in the above way (I don’t know I’m just guessing).

      It’s hard. But I think our laws should protect innocent human life. If the fetus is an innocent human life, as argued above, then it should be protected and no one should have the right to terminate it.

      I would hate to judge anyone from the ‘outside’. It is a sad irony, that people will often label a moral position as judgmental without realizing in the very act of saying that they are judging the person based on their morality.

      My goal with the post and this response is modest – at the very least it gives people a window into the logic and angst of this position. True stories hit me the hardest. Here is the description of one physician:

      “Years ago, while giving an anesthetic for a ruptured tubal pregnancy (at two months), I was handed what I believe to be the smallest human being ever seen. The embryo sac was intact and transparent. Within the sac was a tiny human male swimming extremely vigorously in the amniotic fluid, while attached to the wall by the umbilical cord. This tiny human was perfectly developed with long, tapering fingers, feet and toes. It was almost transparent as regards to skin, and the delicate arteries and veins were prominent to the end of the fingers. The baby was extremely alive and did not look at all like the photos and drawings of ’embryos’ which I have seen. When the sac was opened, the tiny human immediately lost its life and took on the appearance of what is accepted as the appearance of an embryo at this stage, blunt extremities etc”.

      Some find descriptions like this emotionally manipulative. Others find it emotionally devastating. I hope no one finds it uncharitable. If we want to understand why many people oppose abortion medical descriptions like this is one of the reasons.

      I must say, however, that the dialogue that has taken place on this blog is in itself a step forward. We need to stop demonizing one another and learn to listen to what other equally intelligent, winsome and generous people have to say, even when they disagree with us on something that is very important. Let’s not turn our backs to one another.

      I greatly admire your response. And that is truth. Hopefully, all students and participants benefit.


      Posted by Chris Price | December 12, 2012, 7:09 pm
    • To apply your own concluding phrase, if we can agree that all soldiers, on either side are “human being[s] who [are] innocent, do any of [our] reasons [for war] justify taking [their] lives?” I would argue that they don’t, and yet I’ve had a few friends be deployed (some more than once) to war zones, not all of whom returned.

      I am not understanding the point of this paragraph?

      Posted by dm | December 12, 2012, 9:41 pm
      • Sorry, it’s a bit choppy with all the amending brackets… but basically pointing out that even if we begin from a point of assuming all life has intrinsic moral value, we can’t justify the loss of life that follows from war. That being said, we still manage to overlook this moral opposition with relative regularity.

        Posted by Mr. J | December 12, 2012, 10:58 pm
  3. In terms of war:

    I would disagree with the points that issues of war and issues of euthanasia should be comparable to abortion, because they are drastically different issues composed of very distinct dilemmas to deal with.

    Just because they both include death, it doesn’t mean that they involve the same circumstances. This applies particularly to war, which contains a very different set of ethical reasoning. For example, you could easily bring up the utilitarian calculus in the war argument. Are we not preventing the loss of more lives, by taking the lives of others? In addition to this, the soldiers participating in this war are making a conscious thought to participate, and put their lives at risk for something greater. More importantly, they are deciding for themselves. In the case of abortion, we see that the loss of the life of a child is not bringing a greater peace among people. It is not saving lives – it is simply enhancing the life of a woman who doesn’t want a child. This, in no case, should be the reasoning behind murder. And in no way, whatsoever, should be comparable to the choices made in war. Two circumstances involving the same moral issue should not be compared, simply because they carry the same burdens.

    In terms of the post (that’s you, Chris):

    I am thoroughly impressed with the composure of the words you put forth, to create such a simple yet powerful argument. You covered nearly every issue, and brought to light an argument that few can explain with such certainty. I can’t imagine how much our class would have benefitted if you had made such a comprehensive post of every topic covered throughout our course. In addition, I was very relieved with the coming of this post – half of the abortion issues that I had been try to explain, but unable to verbalize, you explained in a simple, clear way. Kudos to you!

    Question 1: You mentioned the case of a mother who could potentially die if the child is not aborted. When I came across this point, I was very surprised to see you give your opinion with such certainty. Regarding practicality, as well as realism, of course, we will, in nearly every circumstance, act in a way that will allow the mother to live. If we didn’t, we’d be solely emotionless, rational beings. What I would ask, is in a purely theoretical sense, why would we value the life of the mother over the life of the child?

    If they are two distinct, separate lives, why should one prioritize over another? Is there a moral code to follow in relation to this, or do we resort to practicality? And how does this apply to all situations (not just abortion)? Is there a moral obligation to preserve the life of one over another? Or is it simply based on the emotional and practical balance?

    Question 2: In touchy issues like this one, it is very difficult to implement change, especially with the government set up the way it is. There is no way that a sane political party would ever willingly approach such an issue. And even if they would, it has been brought up, it would not necessarily solve the issue. The question would be: how do you implement the change that you take the side of? Is it through a slow, spreading social movement against abortion? Is it a feisty ad campaign? Is it voting for or against abortion in places that do bring up such an issue?

    This seems to be a problem that comes up in a lot of circumstances. As said, it is a touchy issue. Is there a tangible way to progress towards a world that struggles less with the need for abortions?

    Question 3: Playing the devil’s advocate (or more realistically, bringing forth the questions of classmates who don’t involve themselves on the blog), should the value of life ALWAYS take precedence, in all situations, struggles, and issues? Of course, I have an answer to this, but I’m quite curious to see how you would respond to this.

    And thank you for posting! I certainly appreciate your openness in this whole process – as often, people are discouraged to share their views in fear of judgement or rebuttal. I sincerely look forward to the responses you bring, and your continual participation in this course.


    Posted by JonathanToews | December 13, 2012, 1:25 am
    • Thanks Jonathan,

      The answers below correspond to the questions.

      1. You’re right I think. It was a misstep on my part to state with such confidence that we should save the mother’s life. I backed away from that a bit at the end of that paragraph but the way I’ve stated it is misleading. So in order to be clear – I don’t think the life of the mother is more valuable than the life of the child, or vice versa. To claim that a mother’s life is more valuable would logically open the door to racism, sexism, ageism, chauvinism and a bunch of other ‘isms’ that wouldn’t lead to human flourishing (i.e. if one human can be more valuable than another why stop at the mother/baby scenario? Why not save the white person and let the black person die – some people thought that way at the time and that was wrong – it is seldom argued that racism is right now, and I don’t care if they thought it was right back then – they were wrong. My position gives me the luxury of saying so ;)).

      Therefore, the lives of the mother and the baby have equal value and both are worth saving. However, in a situation where only one live can be saved the moral imperative is to save the life that can be saved. The life that is lost is a tragedy because it is as valuable as the life that was saved. Again, given this scenario, if the baby’s life is lost I don’t think I would call that ‘abortion’ I would call it a rescue operation where both lives couldn’t be spared given the situation.

      Now, who gets saved in that situation wouldn’t be the result of determining who has more worth but other factors like, ‘who has the greater probability of surviving’, or ‘the decision of the parent, in particular the mother. She may choose to risk her life to save the child. Perhaps, other children that are reliant on the mother would determine whether or not you save the child or the mother. The father, or in some cases the doctor, may have to make that brutal choice.

      But the reason these other factors play into the situation is not to determine who has more value but to determine who should be saved given that both mother and child have intrinsic moral value. If one dies, it is a tragedy because a precious life has been lost.

      Again, I don’t think it is legitimate to use this example as a means of justifying abortion because I’m not even aware of any responsible ‘pro-life’ advocate who would oppose the loss of a life in this situation as long as everything possible was done to save both lives.

      I know your question may have broader implications but I’m trying to stick to the scenario that provoked the question so that I don’t bit of more than I can chew right now. I don’t want to get pulled into a debate about just war, or the morality of the death penalty given the value of human life.

      The main reason being, in the abortion debate it is not simply that human’s have intrinsic moral value and the fetus is a human being. The fetus is also innocent, helpless, and harmless unlike the murderer on death row or the soldier in the field. It might have helped the original post if I had made that clearer.

      2. This question would be better answered in the long run by a pro-life person who has a degree in political science, or a stronger understanding of political processes in Canada because sooner or later it would have to get to the legislative level. You are right; given the current political climate in Canada this would likely be political suicide. There would have to be a well-organized lobby with gumption, numbers and influence putting pressure on the candidate(s) to publicly embrace a pro-life position. Obviously, we will never have successful single-issue parties in Canada so the only hope in the political arena (barring some dramatic change) is the conservatives but that is hard for me to swallow. You have to decide if the abortion issue is important enough to support a party that you might not agree with on certain economic, environmental and foreign policy issues ;(

      But look, we’re not ready for that. I think a good place to start is right here – having the conversation. This class is brilliant. Opening up the dialogue and allowing both positions to be heard in their strongest most compelling forms is key. Minds can be changed on this issue by appealing to reason and medical science. It has been said, ‘if there were windows in the womb there would be no abortions’. There is some truth there and technology has brought us to a place where we can see clearly what abortion does and people’s minds can be changed one at a time (I believe polling in Canada still shows a fairly divided nation on this issue already but I’d have to check that to be sure).

      Regardless, we have to leave aside all the heated rhetoric, uncharitable demonizing of people on the other side of the debate and sit down as human beings who both care about the health of people. I think that we need to treat others the way we would want to be treated. Would we want to have our ideas caricatured, our motives impugned, our integrity questioned and our love for people denied? I don’t think show. Then pro-life people can’t act in that way towards people who disagree with them. In fact, I think we should serve and seek the good of those who oppose the pro-life position and us. When we treat people with dignity it opens up the possibility of being heard. So often in debates like this we ‘cut off people’s noses and then wonder why they can’t smell the flowers’.

      Let face it, lot’s of the tactics employed by the ‘pro-life’ group have alienated people and polarized the debate to the point where any discussion on the topic often generates more heat than light. If we choose to oppose abortion we better take a hard look in the mirror first and ask ourselves are we really willing to be ‘pro-life’ (Mr. Jackson is right about these terms I think. There not really helpful but it is just easier for now). I guess the above goes for proponents of both positions but flinging mud gets your own hands dirty and they’re dirty enough as is dealing with my own self-righteousness.

      In addition, we need to embrace a broader understanding of pro-life that extends to our environment. If the earth gets sick, we all get sick. Therefore, being good stewards of the planet is a sanctity of life issue. ‘But I just care about the babies. Okay, well what about the babies, babies?’

      Being pro-life also extends to issues like adoption, sacrificial support of single mothers and couples with disabled children, as well as financially supporting and volunteering time at agencies that inform woman of their other options and provide practical support throughout and after the pregnancy.

      (Abstinence would solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies, of course, but that is not going to happen. So realistically education about birth control that is not abortive is important, regardless of one’s personal sexual ethic, or feelings about the matter).

      For a person to be authentically ‘pro life’ comes at a great cost. Yet, the cost is not nearly as great as sacrificing children on the altar of independence and personal choice under the guise of women’s health (I’ve left the last sentence in as, perhaps, an example of rhetoric that might not be conducive to a constructive discussion – it hints at devious intentions motivating the opposition).

      Changed hearts and changed minds lead to changed laws, not the other way around. Any movement on this issue will take years but if you believe it is the right thing it is a worthy cause.

      I apologize. I wrote that at blinding speed and I realize that I’ve kind of gotten on a soapbox. Man, I hope it is helpful and not preachy. I guess that even if it is preachy I’m preaching at myself.

      People tend to have more patience for that.

      3. I think you should answer this one. You would do the best job probably. I’d give it a try but I wasn’t in class and look at what has happened already. I’ve gotten carried away and it is midnight. Why don’t you give it a go and maybe I will comment on your comment.


      Posted by Chris Price | December 13, 2012, 8:46 am
    • At the risk of this cycling on beyond what might be needed – I’m thoroughly impressed with all the different threads and ground this post has covered in the last couple of days – I’ll take this opportunity to clarify my comments about war as I think both the arguments you and Chris raise are valid.

      Chris brings up the point about soldiers meeting one another on the battle field, and while I meant as well to include the innocent lives that are lost in such conflicts as well (I think the civilian casualties in the American foray into Iraq has cost some 100,000 innocent people their lives through collateral damage; it is worthwhile to note that Iraq posed almost no demonstrable threat to the United States prior to the invasion), you are right as well, Jonathan, that there is a different set of ethical parameters around war that involves some calculus that might be more at home as a response to Nick’s initial intention to blog about the Just War concept. I only raised the point, however, to note that if we work from a premise under which it is never right to take an innocent life (as the original post suggested), the conflicts we’ve been witness to in recent times have – with little in the way of logical justification – had little trouble with a similar math.

      Posted by Mr. J | December 13, 2012, 5:41 pm
  4. I’ll avoid wading into the multiple essays that make up the comment section, and just add a few things.

    The issue with the abortion debate is that there is absolutely no potential for bridging the two different sides. The only real issue up for debate is, as you spoke about, the humanity of the organism in question. I believe it is not human, but simply a thing(until a certain, undefinable point) – others believe that it is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception and genetic completion. Though I disagree, this viewpoint makes perfect sense to me – and with the premise, the conclusion is sound. There is no need for your apology on the issue of rape. If you believe that the fetus is a person, rape, however terrible it is, does not justify murder.

    I thought interesting your points about genetic selection – I hadn’t thought about it in that way before. What I would say is, though, it still remains wrong for two reasons: 1, from a practical standpoint, allowing it is a bad idea, because gender imbalances are naught but harmful to society, and 2. the broader issue of favouring one gender over the other, and assorted discrimination and poor societal values that accompany and result from it, remains at play. So abortion because of gender is wrong, not because we think its necessarily inherently wrong to abort a fetus that would become a female(your logic seems sound on that point), but because of the broader societal implications it has – that is, we are against gender bias and discrimination, which this most clearly is.

    Overall, an excellent post from a side not often explained well. Thanks, Chris.

    Posted by liamthesaint | December 13, 2012, 4:03 am
    • Thanks Liam! Good comment. In the second paragraph both of your reasons are insightful and could be added to the reason I gave. I guess the point I was trying to make originally was, ‘abortion is often justified by stating that the fetus isn’t human’. Therefore, why does gender matter (I get that it matters outside of the womb – sexism is harmful to society). But if the fetus is not human, than it’s not human and abort away – why would the gender of a thing matter – what type of thing even has a gender?

      In addition to that I would say, ‘if the fetus isn’t a human being what is it’? Medical science says it is a human, genetically complete at conception, and when many abortions occur it is a little baby – we are not guessing, we can see that now. On what rational or evidential basis, (philosophical or scientific), can we state, ‘the fetus is just a thing’. When my wife and I get an ultra-sound we don’t see a thing we see a baby (this is true even at 8 weeks).

      But if we think this gulf can’t be bridged than we can just leave it at that. We can agree to disagree amicably and I can honestly say, without frivolous flattery, that I admire your mind . I wanted to comment on the other great post you wrote anyways. I think I want to go back and forth on the idea of ‘utilitarianism’ if I get a chance.

      I don’t want to argue this current issue beyond what is helpful.


      Posted by Chris Price | December 13, 2012, 9:10 am


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