I had philosophy discussion this morning with my classmates and TA about abortion.
All the arguments we learned about in lecture failed to answer whether or not a fetus is a person.
On that topic, I compared the fetus to a caterpillar and people to butterflies. I said this: “If we saw a caterpillar, some of us feel okay with killing it. But if we all saw butterflies, none of us would want to kill them. Why are the lives of butterflies valued much more than caterpillars? Why are the lives of fetuses valued less than people’s lives?”
Apparently, I’m not the only one who used that analogy! I just Googled my analogy, and found it mentioned on the NCBI site:
The term “potential” as it is being used in this essay is not meant to describe mere possibility, i.e., X has the potential to achieve Y does not just mean X may possibly attain Y. If that were what was meant by potential, it would be very weak indeed. A seed would not just be a potential flower or plant, but also a potential food or a potential material for an art project. A kitten would not just be a potential cat, but also a potential delicacy at some restaurant, or a potential fur coat. Rather, potential, in the way I am using it here and the way I assume most advocates of the argument from potential use the concept, refers to, as Stephen Buckle puts it, a certain being’s “potency… the power it [actually] possesses in virtue of its specific constitution”  to grow into a being of a certain sort. That is, X is a potential Y if X possesses the power to become Y; that X will become Y, if it lives long enough. In this way, a caterpillar is a potential butterfly (since it possesses the power to become a butterfly; it will become a butterfly if it lives long enough), as a child is a potential adult. A fetus is a potential person in this way; a fetus may not just possibly become a person, it will become a person, if its growth is unfettered and if it lives long enough.
So, during lecture, my professor talked about how comparing two similar things or beings isn’t good enough to make a strong argument because being “like” something doesn’t imply that it “is” that thing, and therefore it doesn’t necessarily have the same characteristics and rights as that thing it is being compared to.
I skimmed through the NCBI argumentative paper, and I found some pretty interesting points that weren’t discussed in class.
I’m gonna give my thoughts for each section of the paper here in my blog post.
I can harm the future person that the fetus becomes if I do something now against the fetus, for example, I can administer to a pregnant woman a drug that would result in the fetus’ eyes not developing correctly, thereby blinding the future person that develops from the fetus. That is, once the fetus is born there is an individual (the subsequent infant, child, and adult) who is substantially worse off than she otherwise would have been had the development of her eyes not been interfered with while in the fetal stage. But notice, the objection continues, that this is not what happens when we are talking about abortion. If a fetus is aborted, what we are doing is preventing the existence of a future person rather than partaking in a current action that will result in a harm for a future person. Thus, when we abort the fetus, we are really harming no currently existing being and we are doing nothing but preventing the existence of a future being. Whereas if we thwart the development of a fetus’ eyes, we are, thereby, truly harming someone: the future person that will be blinded as a result, granting that the fetus is allowed to be born and grow up.
Wow, I didn’t think of this scenario. I can see how if someone wants to abort a baby but can’t pay for a proper abortion, then that person is essentially harming the fetus and ruining the fetus’ future health condition.
Nothing I have said in this paper necessarily grounds a position that abortion is always morally wrong or unjust (which is why I keep referring as the fetal moral right to life as a prima facie right). Even though potential can ground an interest in continued existence for an early embryo or mid-gestation fetus, depending on what theory of personal identity one adheres, we still have to contend with Thomsonian-like objections which state that a fetus’ moral right to life does not entail a woman’s obligation to sacrifice her body in order to gestate it for nine months . Nevertheless, I believe I have demonstrated why potential does matter, and I hope to have also illustrated that perhaps the major disagreement about this issue has more of its roots in the metaphysical question of personal identity that has previously been acknowledged.
Bruh. Okay. I skipped to the conclusion section of the paper, and I’m disappointed. My professor talked about the Thomsonian theory. A woman may not be obligated to let the fetus live according to the theory, but killing or aborting the fetus is murder.
I don’t have much time left to analyze any more paragraphs from the essay. I guess the last thing I’ll say is this: If abortion is considered murder, then oooohhhhh boy, a lot of people are gonna be killed over abortion – including the mothers, doctors, and anyone else who approved the action. Imagine what the world’s population would be like if abortionists were killed.