Does abortion presuppose that parents have no moral obligations to their children?

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    The most common argument in favour of permitting abortion relates to a woman's right to bodily autonomy. Since it is her body, and she expresses full bodily autonomy over it, she is under no obligation to permit the developing foetus to use her uterus for its survival and growth, and so can disconnect it from herself at any time, if she wishes. Or so it goes.

    The issue is, this argument seems to crucially ride on one large assumption; that parents have absolutely no moral obligations towards their children, and can treat them no differently to a complete stranger invading their personal space.

    If we take that to be the case, in the interests of being consistent with our ethics, are we not forced to conclude that parents have no moral obligations towards their children once they born, either? That is, parents should be freely allowed to neglect their children no matter the consequence; refrain from feeding them, clothing them, and safeguarding them from harm. Provided the parents do not actively aggress upon their child, the mere withholding of care should, following this ethic, be completely permissible. To suggest a parent must actively care for their child would be an infringement of their bodily autonomy, just as suggesting a woman must carry her baby to full term, is it not?
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    (Original post by VV Cephei A)
    The most common argument in favour of permitting abortion relates to a woman's right to bodily autonomy. Since it is her body, and she expresses full bodily autonomy over it, she is under no obligation to permit the developing foetus to use her uterus for its survival and growth, and so can disconnect it from herself at any time, if she wishes. Or so it goes.

    The issue is, this argument seems to crucially ride on one large assumption; that parents have absolutely no moral obligations towards their children, and can treat them no differently to a complete stranger invading their personal space.

    If we take that to be the case, in the interests of being consistent with our ethics, are we not forced to conclude that parents have no moral obligations towards their children once they born, either? That is, parents should be freely allowed to neglect their children no matter the consequence; refrain from feeding them, clothing them, and safeguarding them from harm. Provided the parents do not actively aggress upon their child, the mere withholding of care should, following this ethic, be completely permissible. To suggest a parent must actively care for their child would be an infringement of their bodily autonomy, just as suggesting a woman must carry her baby to full term, is it not?
    A lot of people who are pro-choice will generally say that it's not a child while it's still in her womb, and just has the potential to be. By continuing your pregnancy and not giving your baby up for adoption or anything, you accept full responsibility for the child and that's why it becomes your duty to support them and protect them.

    Are you basically asking why you cannot kill your child once it's been born?
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    (Original post by cherryred90s)
    Are you basically asking why you cannot kill your child once it's been born?
    I don't think they're asking about actively killing your child once it's born.

    They're asking that, when a child is born, parents owe a duty of care to that child in terms of keeping it alive, healthy and happy (or putting it up for adoption to parents who will fulfil this). They cannot simply just say "I will not go out of my way to help you at all, nor do I permit you to use any resources that belong to me" and leave it for dead.

    The argument that abortion ought to be permissible on the grounds of the woman's "bodily autonomy" appears to reject this notion of the duty of care, assuming that since it may be an inconvenience for the woman to continue to allow the foetus to live inside her, she has every right to put an end to it, regardless of the interests of the foetus itself.


    Now the argument could be rectified by saying that the duty of care only applies to children who have been born or are past a certain developmental stage, not to newly conceived foetuses. It only counts as a child/human/person after birth, or after 24 weeks or whatever. But then it just turns into the usual debate about "where do you draw the line, and why?" which I think is never going to have an objectively settled and established answer.
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    (Original post by tazarooni89)
    I don't think they're asking about actively killing your child once it's born.

    They're asking that, when a child is born, parents owe a duty of care to that child in terms of keeping it alive, healthy and happy (or putting it up for adoption to parents who will fulfil this). They cannot simply just say "I will not go out of my way to help you at all, nor do I permit you to use any resources that belong to me" and leave it for dead.

    The argument that abortion ought to be permissible on the grounds of the woman's "bodily autonomy" appears to reject this notion of the duty of care, assuming that since it may be an inconvenience for the woman to continue to allow the foetus to live inside her, she has every right to put an end to it, regardless of the interests of the foetus itself.


    Now the argument could be rectified by saying that the duty of care only applies to children who have been born or are past a certain developmental stage, not to newly conceived foetuses. It only counts as a child/human/person after birth, or after 24 weeks or whatever. But then it just turns into the usual debate about "where do you draw the line, and why?" which I think is never going to have an objectively settled and established answer.
    When the child can survive outside of the womb on its own is usually where people draw the line between human baby and potential baby.

    Even once you've given birth, you still don't have to be a parent if you don't want to be, but you can't take matters into your own hands and starve your child.
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    I personally disagree with the argument from right to bodily autonomy, however you may be interested in reading Judith Jarvis Thomson's essay A Defense of Abortion, which inspects the nature of dependency and whether it imposes moral obligations or justifiably hinders one's autonomy (she believes it does not). You might already be familiar with its famous violinist analogy.

    When it comes to abortion, the more compelling argument to me is that babies (prior to reaching the cut-off date for the procedure) aren't beings who by virtue of the experience of gradations to their quality of life are ipso facto deserving of ethical consideration. I don't believe there's a moral imperative to act to the benefit of beings that in principle cannot benefit - the fact that a being would (in the absence of abortion-like intervention) develop into a being for whom there would in fact exist a right to moral consideration is, as far as I can see, by-the-by.
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    "children"? a foetus isn't alive though
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    (Original post by miser)
    I personally disagree with the argument from right to bodily autonomy, however you may be interested in reading Judith Jarvis Thomson's essay A Defense of Abortion, which inspects the nature of dependency and whether it imposes moral obligations or justifiably hinders one's autonomy (she believes it does not). You might already be familiar with its famous violinist analogy.

    When it comes to abortion, the more compelling argument to me is that babies (prior to reaching the cut-off date for the procedure) aren't beings who by virtue of the experience of gradations to their quality of life are ipso facto deserving of ethical consideration. I don't believe there's a moral imperative to act to the benefit of beings that in principle cannot benefit - the fact that a being would (in the absence of abortion-like intervention) develop into a being for whom there would in fact exist a right to moral consideration is, as far as I can see, by-the-by.
    I had that essay in mind when making the thread; it seems to me that she is inconsistent in her logic - there is no reason why a woman does not have a moral obligation to the child growing in her uterus (remember, in the essay she makes the concession that the foetus is a human being from the moment of conception), and can treat it as if it truly were a stranger invading her personal space, but is somehow morally obliged to expend labour into feeding, clothing and protecting the child once it is physically located outside of the womb.

    I think if we were to take the bodily autonomy argument as absolute (as many of the more ardent pro-choicers do), then you would have to apply that same ethic across the board, in all circumstances. Otherwise it just seems like you support abortion for the sake of convenience and little more.
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    False premise.

    The law deides at what age a foetus is recognised as a person in its own right and afford the relevant protection at that time.
    Think your argument is completely flawed.
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    (Original post by 999tigger)
    False premise.

    The law deides at what age a foetus is recognised as a person in its own right and afford the relevant protection at that time.
    Think your argument is completely flawed.
    The current law has no relevance to this thread; we're discussing the philosophical arguments that underpin the pro-choice position.
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    (Original post by VV Cephei A)
    The current law has no relevance to this thread; we're discussing the philosophical arguments that underpin the pro-choice position.
    Disagree because the law helps resolve that situation and balances both sides of the moral issues. Abortion doesnt presuupose that a parent has no moral obligations to a child. The law helps define when a child is actually a child. Does the pro choice position really say you cna terminate a child at any stage before birth?
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    Once the child is a child, i.e. it can be recognised as a human being, then the parents have a moral duty towards it. The question is when this recognition should take place. At what point is the fetus their child? Immediately after conception?
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    Of course parents don't have duty towards their children, legal guardians have the duty of care arising from fact that the child is unable to care for themselves; parents merely happen to be legal guardian in most occasions. As for fetus, its status as child is entirely irrelevant as it 'duty' towards it; a person has full sovereignty over their body (atleast should have) and therefore it follows they've right to stop anything from utilizing their body against their will by any means necessary.
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    Another day, another thread like this.
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    I think the law's logic that at the point of viability, the foetus, now being theoretically capable of surviving outside the womb, is now a separate person, makes sense. Prior to that it's physically dependent on the mother and therefore part of her. Though I think there's an argument that 24 weeks is a little too late, and should be pushed back to 22 weeks as there are a significant minority of babies born 22-24 weeks who survive, but hardly any abortions take place at such a late point anyway.
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    (Original post by cherryred90s)
    When the child can survive outside of the womb on its own is usually where people draw the line between human baby and potential baby. *

    Even once you've given birth, you still don't have to be a parent if you don't want to be, but you can't take matters into your own hands and starve your child.
    *

    I think you've misunderstood. We're not talking about "taking matters into your own hands" and deciding that you want your baby to die, and actively starving it to make sure it does.

    Rather, we're talking about a situation similar to abortion in which a parent simply says "I do not permit this child to use my resources in order to survive". Similarly to how a woman may say "This is my womb, and the child can't live in it", we're talking about a parent who says "This is my house, and the child can't live in it", or "This is my, food and the child can't eat it".

    Now of course, if a parent wanted to do that, they could. But they would have to first find someone else who's willing to feed and house and adopt the child before this would be allowed, so that it doesn't die. They owe a duty of care to the child they created, to prevent its death at all costs.*Similarly, if they wished to withdraw the use of their womb from the child, should they not also have to first find say, a surrogate mother who is willing to continue to allow the child to develop inside her womb so that it doesn't die?*

    *
    You say that the line is drawn between a potential baby and a human baby when the child begins to be able to survive outside the womb. However, even after it becomes able to survive outside the womb, it is still dependent upon its parents for survival in other ways.

    So the analogy being drawn here is that, if "allowing it to die" by withdrawing food or shelter etc. is prohibited, then "allowing it to die" by withdrawing the womb environment also should be prohibited.
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    No.
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    (Original post by tazarooni89)
    *

    I think you've misunderstood. We're not talking about "taking matters into your own hands" and deciding that you want your baby to die, and actively starving it to make sure it does.

    Rather, we're talking about a situation similar to abortion in which a parent simply says "I do not permit this child to use my resources in order to survive". Similarly to how a woman may say "This is my womb, and the child can't live in it", we're talking about a parent who says "This is my house, and the child can't live in it", or "This is my, food and the child can't eat it".

    Now of course, if a parent wanted to do that, they could. But they would have to first find someone else who's willing to feed and house and adopt the child before this would be allowed, so that it doesn't die. They owe a duty of care to the child they created, to prevent its death at all costs.*Similarly, if they wished to withdraw the use of their womb from the child, should they not also have to first find say, a surrogate mother who is willing to continue to allow the child to develop inside her womb so that it doesn't die?*

    *
    You say that the line is drawn between a potential baby and a human baby when the child begins to be able to survive outside the womb. However, even after it becomes able to survive outside the womb, it is still dependent upon its parents for survival in other ways.

    So the analogy being drawn here is that, if "allowing it to die" by withdrawing food or shelter etc. is prohibited, then "allowing it to die" by withdrawing the womb environment also should be prohibited.
    This.
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    (Original post by sleepysnooze)
    "children"? a foetus isn't alive though
    A foetus is very much alive. The egg and sperm that combined to produce it were also living cells. The unresolved question is when a foetus can be consider a human being.
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    (Original post by sleepysnooze)
    "children"? a foetus isn't alive though

    If you DNA test a foetus:

    - It's a collection of human cells
    - It's living
    - It's growing
    - It's not part the mother
    - It's not part the father
    - Not part of any other human being

    Therefore, it is a) unique, b) living c) human.

    And a unique, living, small human, goes by another name: A Child.


    I don't understand how this is difficult.

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    (Original post by VV Cephei A)
    I had that essay in mind when making the thread; it seems to me that she is inconsistent in her logic - there is no reason why a woman does not have a moral obligation to the child growing in her uterus (remember, in the essay she makes the concession that the foetus is a human being from the moment of conception), and can treat it as if it truly were a stranger invading her personal space, but is somehow morally obliged to expend labour into feeding, clothing and protecting the child once it is physically located outside of the womb.

    I think if we were to take the bodily autonomy argument as absolute (as many of the more ardent pro-choicers do), then you would have to apply that same ethic across the board, in all circumstances. Otherwise it just seems like you support abortion for the sake of convenience and little more.
    It's easy to poke holes in the logic of people who say that birth should be the beginning of a parent's moral obligation to a child, since that is, as you point out, ludicrous; a newborn baby is not a different entity to the foetus that it was mere minutes ago.

    But at the same time, I don't think an expectant mother has any moral responsibility for a clump of cells with no central nervous system and no means of experiencing the world. I don't think such an organism can possibly be categorised as a human being. The essay you refer to begins with the concession that a newly conceived foetus is a human being, but I don't think that's a good premise.

    Somewhere between conception and birth is a moment when I would start having serious qualms about aborting a foetus. I'm not really sure when that moment is, to be honest.
 
 
 
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