A Pro-Life Look at Abortion… (No Religion Involved)

17Mar07

I woke up this morning- admittedly quite late- to two words: “Hey. Abortion?” by my friend via online chat. We’re both of the male subset of the species so clearly the question didn’t pertain directly to either of us. It took me a moment to realize he was inquiring as to my stance on the issue- we throw random political questions at each other at all times of day.

It took me another moment though to realize that my stance on the issue is mostly nonexistent; I told him I hadn’t heard a really convincing argument for either side, that their respective validities struck me as equivalent. I asked him his viewpoint and knowing him to be a conservative, I expected the usual “all life must be respected” and other religion-based arguments. His defense of his pro-life stance was actually quite interesting; ergo, this post will in essence paraphrase his words.

“I’m pro-life, but I have kind of a unique and original rationale behind it. God/religion is a good ally in this debate, but my position can be defended without religion, which is hard. I honestly think that outside of wishy-washy moderates, liberals would continue to support abortion (I mean maybe not politically but at least ideologically) even if it were decided without a doubt that a fetus were alive and “human,” and conservatives would continue to be against abortion even if it were decided without a doubt that a fetus were not alive and “human.” This issue grossly transcends the typical biological debate abortion, and I think that’s just a facade for the deeper values at play here.

“Before I explain why I’m against abortion, I should explain value pluralism. In the philosophy of morality and values there are two big schools of thought that stick out; they are universalism/absolutism and relativism and they actually have a lot of meanings outside of moral philosophy. Specific to morality, moral universalism holds that a certain set of values/morals apply to any and every situation anywhere in time with any culture whereas relativists argue that morality like anything else is completely relative. Liberals tend to be relativists (culturally, especially) and conservatives tend to go towards universalism.

“Relativists would point to slavery as an example of relativism and how morality was totally different back then. Universalists would point to the times of slavery and argue it was immoral then as it is now and argue there were a few moral people who were against it even back then.

“Value pluralism is an alternative to both universalism and relativism. It kind of actually begs the question and it is basically the view that in any given situation, there are different “values” or issues at play. So value pluralism holds that every making entity (be it a society or an individual) puts a different importance on different values and so the holistic sense of “morality” is based on how those values play out in the situation and how important those values are to the decision maker.

“It’s universalism in the sense that it argues that all the different “values” at play are “fundamentally correct. But it is relativism in that it argues that depending on how much importance you place on different values, your holistic moral view is different.

“So back to abortion, value pluralism is obviously a big deal and I think a lot of people use it in defending their view. There’s the obvious value of defending the life of a human baby (or if you don’t think fetuses are human, defending the sanctity of human life by defending the zygotes we come from) There’s the obvious value of the undeniable burden (of if you want to be an optimist, the “opportunities”) created with the birth of a baby. There’s the value of individual choice and whether the government should even have a say in this. There’s the value of overarching moral authority or a sense of a moral code in a society and (assuming abortion is not allowed in that code) whether the government should enforce it. And I’m sure there are others.

“I think that value pluralism applies to this issue and all of those things I mentioned earlier are fundamentally correct. To me, one of the most important functions of a society/government is to help provide meaning and value in and to individual life. That sounds really specific, but it’s not because I think by providing security/order or equality or even education, government does exactly that. So I really support the “culture of life” conservatives talk about. And I think one of the most basic ways of protecting value in life is through a ban on abortion- whether or not what’s being aborted is a human or a potential human.

“In regard to the other values of personal choice and the burden placed on society or individuals, I don’t think we should give people personal choice to take away human life or potential human life because that’s a pretty big. In regards to the burden placed, I think that in the united states, we’re a wealthy enough country where if you truly cannot take care of a child, we have a marvelous (relative to the rest of the world) welfare system and the government can take care of a kid for you if you can’t. I think that this is all true only because we live in the United States.

“I think the standard arguments lie in the biology of it and whether you’re killing a human or not and the other standard defense against abortion lies in religion. I haven’t seen/heard much philosophical defense against abortion from conservatives. I mean yeah conservatives use the “culture of life” argument but it’s not really argued on a philosophical level of the government existing to defend meaning/value.”

The most interesting thing about this argument is that it isn’t rooted in biology or religion- the two fields of study linked to abortion in virtually every single case. Really, the best thing about that is its provision of a more viable avenue for debate. In essence, using religion as a tool in the abortion debate slams the door shut against those who support it; using philosophy, in my mind, is more appropriate for political discussion.

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6 Responses to “A Pro-Life Look at Abortion… (No Religion Involved)”

  1. I have to agree with you. I am politically, spiritually, socially, culturally, etc. etc. liberal. I support homosexual marriage, etc. I am usually a staunch feminist. I am also pro-life – no qualifications or reservations. I found the hypocrisy in the pro-choice stance (a living being not having a choice) a long time ago. I suppose this is the problem with dogmatism on either side. The conservatives automatically take up one stance, the liberals another – neither wants to bother with the arguments of the other side (especially if the arguments are rational).

  2. 2 Ben

    I think your freind does not define relativism well, and gives the united states welfare system way too much credit. but it is refreshing to hear a pro lifer use something more reasonable than religoin (which is everything) as an argument

  3. 3 Arvind

    AH!!! I have to be careful with what i say to you Rohan, you might just go blog it for the whole world to see!!!

  4. Interesting perspective that uses Platonic reasoning as a basis for thought. I am reminded of a Philosophy Professor, who was a strict rationalist, and a significantly moralistic person, who “came out of the cave”, see it was a Philosophy class, and shocked the group when she admitted she was an atheist. Many were shocked at her combination of Puritanical morality and atheism. I guess they hadn’t been paying too much attention!

  5. My own struggle with pro-life vs. pro-choice was a long and arduous one- going back and forth several time. I have finally reached a point where I am strongly within the pro-life camp.


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