I'd be remiss if I didn't post something here on Roe v. Wade Day, so here's an abortion post. As with most of my abortion posts, I'm going to link to something I wrote 4 years ago. It's a treatise on when life begins. Maybe it'll seem redundant, and I know a good number of people have read it before, but I really believe it's an important post, and well worth the read. If you've never made the time to read it, or if it's been a while, I'd strongly recommend you take a look.
I'm pretty busy with a bunch of other stuff right now (namely studying to take the bar again) so I'm only going to put up a limited set of original thoughts.
One of the ways in which my thoughts on abortion have nuanced since I put up that treatise is that I pretty much expect everyone to agree that life begins at conception. Because it's pretty much incontrovertible that some sort of new life has come into existence. The fetus, quite simply, is a life.
This opens up a new, more nuanced discussion, of when specifically that life deserves protection. I've found that this nuance makes for a more productive discussion between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. I suspect the reason has something to do with the fact that it seems like a new debate. Trying to debate the question of "is a fetus a life" left both sides entrenched. Pro-lifers couldn't budge from the position of "yes, it's a life", and pro-choice people generally refused to answer the question, and when they did it was with a staunch "no".
Now, instead of a yes/no question, you've got a spectrum. "When does a life deserve protection" is something that can be answered with any point on the spectrum from conception to never.
In more productive abortion debates we always seemed to get to this point anyway, but starting out by framing the question as "when does life deserve protection" offers a lot more room for advancement, and makes both sides feel like they can really participate.
It also helps set up a few solid points for pro-life advocates. First, if you've got a life then it's pretty hard to say there isn't something of value. The debate can still rage on about how much value that fetus has, but it takes a pretty unreasonable person to say that a life is devoid of worth. Second, you're making the question one of deliberate line drawing. And when you're talking about a fetus, there aren't too many clear lines. Pretty much you've got conception and (arguably) birth. Everything else in between is really quite gray. The pro-life advocate is drawing a clear line. People might disagree with its location, but at very least the line is clear.
This framing also helps set up an analogy I've grown kind of fond of. I haven't had great opportunity to use it, so I'm going to try it out here, to see what people think:
A caterpillar and a butterfly are the exact same thing. They seem like really different creatures, but actually they're the same. We wouldn't say that the butterfly is a life and the caterpillar is not. They're just lepidoptera at different stages of development. We might be a little more awed by the butterfly, but we know that ultimately there's no difference between the two. We know that killing a caterpillar is just as wrong as killing a butterfly.
Likewise, a fetus is just a person at a different stage of development. A lepidoptera goes through five caterpillar stages, to a pupa, to a butterfly. A human goes from a fetus, to an infant, to a toddler, etc., on up to adulthood. An infant is significantly different from an adult, and we give the adult more rights and responsibilities, but it would be just as wrong to kill both a baby and a grown-up. So too, with a fetus. Sure, it's quite different from an adult person. But so what? Babies are quite different from adults too. Isn't it all just another stage in human development? How can it be wrong to kill one, but ok to kill the other?
I'm sure there are responses to this analogy. I haven't run this out there much, so I haven't really heard them. But I'm intrigued by what pro-choice advocates might say.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I know back in October I promised I'd do a full abortion post sometime in 2009, and once I'm done with the bar, I'll get to it. But for now, this will have to do.
So, to sum it all up:
Because no one can reasonably dispute that some sort of life begins at conception, the question we've got to answer is: when does life deserve protecting?
Oh my baby don't be so distressed
Were done with politesse