Since I’m quite vocal and passionate about my political and social beliefs, people have and will always accuse me of being biased, which is a silly claim. Everyone’s biased. What they mean to say is that I’m close-minded, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If someone introduces a logical way of thinking about something and I can’t find any way to logically refute it (this doesn’t pertain to ignorance — you can’t attempt to logically refute something you don’t know enough about), then it holds that their logical position is the correct one. Therefore, one must adopt this new logical premise. Sure, you can add nuance to it, but to hold stubbornly to the previously untenable logical premise would be the definition of close-mindedness.
Now, all of that said, the reason I bring this up is because I believe I’ve changed my views on abortion. It’s always been a sticky issue for me coming from a libertarian background wherein, I don’t think anyone is comfortable with the idea of abortion, but that discomfort was weighed against the discomfort with dictating a woman’s choice; thus, pro-choice emerged as my position.
Science is a great thing and science can quite obviously tell us that genetically, when two people procreate, they produce a human being. We know this, but what we don’t know and which is the domain of philosophers and ethical theorists is what defines “personhood.”
Aristotle was of the belief that by virtue of being born to the human species, you’re a person. (There’s a bit more to it I’ll address in a moment.) The other view is that of exhibiting characteristics pertaining to personhood. In other words, personhood means to exhibit characteristics of what people believe makes a human; so consciousness, rationality, having goals, self-awareness and so on.
The argument then as it pertains to abortion is that a fetus has not yet achieved “personhood” because it does not exhibited these characteristics. Therefore, abortion is justifiable. However, this premise allows for not just the killing of a fetus because it’s not achieved “personhood,” but that same litany of characteristics could not be properly attributed to an infant, the elderly in some cases, those in a vegetative state and the handicapped. Therefore, if it’s morally permissible to kill a fetus for not fulfilling those characteristics, then…
As such, that view seems untenable as a moral standpoint and since I can’t envision any other way to characterize personhood, then Aristotle’s view holds as logical. Maybe I’m missing something here, but it’s the new conclusion I’ve reached.
However, those on the pro-life side of it need some nuance. Saying life begins at conception is a, “Well, duh,” statement. Of course it does, but that doesn’t address this aforementioned problem of “personhood,” because surely, there are instances in which claiming “personhood” begins at conception is problematic.
Twinning, conjoined twins and the waste that doesn’t implant makes holding that position untenable.
And that’s where Aristotle comes back in with this notion of “delayed personhood.” There’s stages in becoming a fully rationalized person, but as he and Aquinas talk about, the “potential” is there. That’s what I think gets me the most.
In other words, it’s kinda nonsense to say “it’s just a clump of cells,” as if it could become something else. It’s a “clump” of human cells that would become a human, if nobody intervenes. Losing that potentiality over and over and over again is kinda sad when you think about it.
With all of that said, it’s still a sticky issue. Because I absolutely feel dirty about what Republicans are doing to essentially loophole around Roe v. Wade and reduce or outright eliminate access to abortion clinics. I do not want abortions to be illegal because a return to back-alley abortions is not desirable. The whole reason Roe v. Wade became a “thing” was for protection of the mother and I still hold to that being a desirable consideration. At the same time, there’s this elephant in the room known as “potential.”
At the end of the day, then, as much as it’s a slight diversion of sorts, perhaps some would say a cop-out, the best solution is preventative measures. Safe sex education, access to birth control and other contraceptives and so on.
(That’s the other area that’s mystifying to me. Religious folks don’t like abortion, which, as I’ve outlined, I get, even as a non-religious person, but at the same time, they mythologize sex and want to teach abstinence. That’s a case of your left hand knocking your goals out of your right hand.)
I’m verbose, so the tl;dr is that my views on abortion have altered somewhat more to the “pro-life” side (which is a stupid term) with some nuance and some needed reading of the literature to still do, of course.