I recently had an online discussion about religion, gay marriage, and abortion with a bunch of strangers. It was an exhilarating experience. It occurred to me that while I've written quite a bit about the first two, I have yet to address the latter.
I think my views are logically entailed by several facts/assumptions:
- Fetuses, up to a certain point, are not conscious beings
- Humans are animals
- We kill animals - taking certain precautions to avoid inflicting pain
That's it. If humans are just animals, then the consideration of killing humans should be no different. Of course, there are differences: humans are intelligent, we are conscious, etc. That's why the first assumption is there. It might turn out that children are born conscious of themselves, but that's rather unlikely. I also take the view that consciousness entails intelligence, so getting rid of consciousness would solve the intelligence problem as well. Since fetuses up to a certain stage are not conscious, they should be treated as any other animal.
The argument is simple from that point. When we kill cows, chickens, etc. we (in general) use procedures which make sure the animal does not feel pain, or otherwise suffer before it's death. This courtesy towards life should be offered to fetuses as well. And it is also easy to see that only at some point in development the fetus has nerves and therefore can feel pain. And therefore, abortion should be allowed up to that point.
Of course, it might be possible to perform euthanasia on the fetus after that point as well. I suppose I'm fine with this too.
Note that whether abortion is ethical is a different question from whether people should abort. Just because you can jump out of a window and kill yourself doesn't mean you should; in fact, I personally would advice people to keep their babies. But I don't have a moral qualm against those who abort (before said deadline) either.
I would like to share one more thing. In my discussion, someone brought up the idea that abortion is wrong because of legal rights... for the father. If the child is a product of both the father and the mother (so far...), why should the mother have the sole rights to abort? I think this argument has merit, but because of biological and other costs to the mother, I don't think they should have an equal say either. Of course, this is not as simple as taking the weighted average of each other's arguments. But at least it's a viable framework to look at abortion.