• Dawkins and the cowardice of the pro-Abortion movement

    Richard Dawkins is in the news again.  Asked by someone about the hypothetical of carrying a baby with Down’s syndrome, he tweeted “Abort it and start again.  It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

    There’s a firestorm about this, as you might imagine.  Dawkins was rather surprised by this:

    “To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.”

    Here’s the thing: he’s right.  If you really believe that the unborn is just a mass of cells and not a child, then there is no more problem about this than there is about pre-implantation screening of IVF embryos.  Where is the difference, exactly?  If you grant the right to terminate when the mother so chooses, then why cannot she choose for this reason?

    I’ve made my opposition to most abortions clear in this post.  To summarize: I think that there is a transition from a mass of cells to an unborn child at the six to eight week mark, and that once that transition has happened, abortion should never happen.  At that point, the right to life of the unborn outweighs the right to choose of the mother.  It’s a ghastly situation, and I support anything that prevents things from getting that far, but I cannot see any way around that conclusion.

    Returning to the subject at hand, what strikes me is the lack of support from the pro-choice crowd.  Why are they not all rallying around Dawkins?  Why isn’t this a big cause celebre?

    I think I can guess.  Quite a few feminists got very upset when they found out that sex-selective abortion was being used to select for male children, and started complaining about a ‘gendercide’.  Yet how can that be, if the unborn is not human?  Similarly, no objection to Dawkins position exists if the unborn isn’t human.  Why are there no loud voices raised in his defence?

    I suspect it is that the pro-abortion movement has a suspicion that its foundations are unsound.  They cannot prove their case that the unborn isn’t a child, and science keeps piling up the evidence against them.  So they don’t like to see the logical conclusion of their stance out in the open, they prefer to decry it as ‘unhelpful’.

    That is a giveaway.  Either Dawkins is right or he isn’t, which means either the pro-abortion movement is right or it isn’t.  People sullenly complaining that this is ‘unhelpful’ to the pro-abortion cause, but they don’t try to be ‘helpful’ themselves.  I think that’s significant.

    I disagree with him strongly on this issue, but I am glad that he has made it clear what these views really entail.

    Category: atheismLife and ReasonPhilosophy

    Article by: The Prussian

    • Beaker

      “Where is the differences in this?”
      The quite glaringly obvious difference is in stating that a woman has the choice to abort or not (the pro-choice stance) versus stating that the woman should abort and has no choice in the matter (what Dawkins stated).

      The rest of your post is superfluous, because you are not addressing this crucial difference.

      • kraut2

        You either cannot read or are willfully misrepresenting like so many that commented.. He said the choice not to abort would be immoral. Not that she had no choice.

        I agree that there is a sliding scale at what point the fetus should be considered a human being, and his rights have to be weighed against the rights of the mother to her bodily autonomy. In Germany that point was to be at one time determined to be the nine week mark.

        • Beaker

          You are correct, this was not worded carefully enough by me. It doesn’t matter one iota for the misrepresentation by the Prussian though. Let me rephrase my original response:

          The quite glaringly obvious difference is in stating that a woman’s choice to abort is not immoral (the pro-choice stance) versus stating that a woman’s choice not to abort is immoral (what Dawkins stated).

          The rest of Prussian’s post is superfluous, because it does not address this crucial difference.

          Now, logically the implication of this rephrasing is the exact same. Saying that not aborting is immoral prescribes that you have to abort.

          • kraut2

            To say something is immoral does not forbid you to choose. Your argument is only valid if some social/legal pressure would be applied to your immoral decision.
            The fact however is that society as majority considers abortions at least as morally ambiguous, so Dawkins statement does have no social repercussions if one declines his advice. This leaves the questioner to make his/her choice freely.

            • Beaker

              It does not forbid you to choose. But it does imply that those not choosing to abort purposefully choose to commit an act that is wrong. In stating that not aborting is immoral, Dawkins is stating a moral responsibility for a certain action, even if the person has no legal responsibility to act according to Dawkins’ wishes.

              Just as when Christian friends of mine state that the gay marriage of some other friends of mine was wrong. I live in the Netherlands, they have no power to stop these friends from getting married. If he would go on twitter and unreservedly state that marrying people of the same sex is immoral, I would hope he would get the same backlash as Dawkins got (since neither of us is in any way well-known, or twitter for that matter, that won’t happen of course).

              By stating that something is immoral, you leave the realm of “this is just what I would do” and enter the realm of prescriptions (“this action you committed is wrong”). Even if you cannot personally force those prescriptions on others.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      I don’t think that it’s cowardice. It’s just agreement. You don’t see all the pro-evolutionists jumping up and down screaming for joy when a new paper supporting evolution is published.

      Unlike many dogmatic groups, the pro-choice group understands that it’s none of our business what a woman chooses to do. Everyone has their own thoughts and their own rationales.

      I don’t like abortion, but I am more concerned about a person’s right to choose than demanding people have children that they are not able to (for any variety of reasons) care for.

      For example, Down’s Syndrome can be very minor or it can be massively debilitating. The offspring could live a self-controlling life for 60 years or could be dead in 18 months or could need 24/7 care (including feeding and excretion) for however long their life is.

      Some families can deal with that. Some understand that they cannot. What’s better to bring a life into the world that cannot and will not be properly cared for and spends whatever exists of its life suffering or to just not bring it into the world at all? I can’t answer that for you and you can’t answer that for me.

      For example, I’m a fairly intelligent person. I make a good living at my job. My wife and I have a healthy (normal) relationship (we ain’t the Cosbys). Yet, we both understand that we are not prepared and capable of dealing with a DS child. We are fairly good parents to our current child. But we understand that to a child with special needs, we would be horrid parents.

      Dawkins was referring to a specific person who asked a specific question and their discussion continued. It was asked because Dawkins originally commented on the State of Ireland force feeding a woman and keeping her strapped to a bed (because she was suicidal) until her child was old enough to be cut out of her body. All this without her permission and because one doctor who had never met her before disagreed with her choice.

      Dawkins was asked if the hundreds of DS offspring that were aborted was civilized. Then he made his comment. Regardless of what we want, it’s true that hundreds of DS offspring are aborted each year. Would you demand that parents keep those children? No matter their financial conditions? No matter their emotional condition?

    • im-skeptical

      “They cannot prove their case that the unborn isn’t a child, and science keeps piling up the evidence against them.”

      A piece of flesh may be human, but it isn’t a person. Science doesn’t tell us when a developing embryo becomes a person, because that is a matter of how we define personhood, and there is no universal definition to which everyone agrees. There is legislation in the works in some parts of the US to define a fertilized egg as a person, and thus make any abortion an act of murder, and outlaw the use of birth control pills that prevent implantation of fertilized eggs.

      In my opinion, a more reasonable definition of personhood would include sentience.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        In my opinion, a more reasonable definition of personhood would include sentience.

        While, I agree. I think that a case can be made that newborns are not truly sentience. While they have the capacity for it (in general), they may not actually have it. Of course, that depends on the definition of sentience, which, like life, is hard to define.

        I’m not arguing, just saying that it may be possible.

        • im-skeptical

          I agree, it’s not an easy thing to define a particular level of cognition at which you could say this qualifies for personhood, but most of us would agree that an egg has none at all. There may be no point before birth where a fetus has the cognitive capability to see itself as a person.

        • kraut2

          That is not a problem legally. We have existing thresholds already – when you can get your drivers license, when you can vote etc.
          It is just a matter of setting a point the majority can agree upon.

    • Richard Gadsden

      My position on abortion has always been simple – that the woman should not be compelled to bear a child against her will. I can think of no other case where any person is compelled to support another person in such an intimate way; there are many cases where extremely intimate support is given by one person to another (e.g. organ donation, lactation) but these are never required.

      If the fœtus is sufficiently advanced to have a chance of survival outside the womb, and this would not impose an unreasonable additional burden or risk on the woman, then the correct form of termination would be by caesarian section or induction of labour. Those are just as much medical terminations of pregnancy as dilation and curettage, dilation and evacuation and vacuum aspiration – the difference being that the fœtus is extracted intact and there is therefore a possibility of survival.

      Obviously, my longer-term hope is that suitable artificial alternatives to the uterus be developed – and testing and developing them on fœti that would otherwise have died as a result of termination seems to have considerable ethical advantages over experimentation on wanted fœti.

      From a position that accepts the humanity of the fœtus but holds the bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman to be superior, there can be no ethical position that would require or recommend an abortion, nor any that would push strongly against the abortion. There is a moral position, of course – morally, I would not want to be responsible for someone being born with any of a number of physical or psychological problems; my own depression being one I would never wish on anyone else, for example – but my morality can only be in respect of my own actions, never anyone else’s. That is, of course the difference between morals and ethics.