Friday, January 24, 2014

Spontaneous miscarriage and the morality of abortion

Hello, everyone! I have been away from the blog for a while, during a period of great activity regarding reproductive politics. So let's get back to discussing this always-interesting topic. 

In reading an essay by Gary Gutting (subject of a separate post), I followed a link to this blog post by philosopher Peter Smith. 

He wonders why intentional termination of an early pregnancy is more morally consequential than a spontaneous early miscarriage (which occurs in roughly 30% of conceptions). What he is really doing is calling attention to a perceived hypocrisy by pro-life advocates: If unborn are valuable humans from the moment of conception, why isn't there more of an outcry over the heavy loss of human life by natural miscarriage? If the value of the unborn is equal across all situations, Smith suggests, then this apparent lack of concern over natural miscarriage indicates that opposition to abortion, at least early in pregnancy, is about something else. 

Smith concludes (tentatively) that most people have in fact a 'gradualist' view of the morality of abortion, meaning that we assign less moral weight to the death/killing of an early product of conception than a later-term embryo or fetus. 

The comments, and Smith's responses to them, are really worth reading. Smith gets some pushback on the idea that natural death and intentional death of the early unborn are equivalent-- that there is a significant distinction between accidental death and intentional death. 

Links:

Blog post, in Logic Matters, by Peter Smith (Sept. 1, 2011): Abortion, again

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