Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I assume that responsibilty is a combination of the capability to influence something and the need to bear the consequences.

But you and I are able to influence whether the kidney patient in my example survives? This appears to be in contradiction of what you said above.

So why should the mother not be held responsible in a similar way as the father obviously is? Either both are not responsible or both are responsible in the same way

Yes, parents should be equally responsible for their children. And they should be equally responsible for pregnancies. But I don't understand where you're going with that. It almost sounds as if you think that the man should have a say over what happens to the pregnancy. Which is ludicrous: It's the woman's body. She can do with it what she wants, and unless she actively involves him in the decision, it's none of the man's business - or the state's - what she does with her body.


I think this discussion is going in circles, and I think that I'm partially to blame for that. After all, early in the discussion, I accepted for the sake of the argument that the foetus is as worthy of protection as a born child. Which is patent nonsense, and furthermore an assumption that seems to prevent discussion of the real ethical issues.

Because there are, of course, ethical issues with terminating a pregnancy. However, those issues involve a tradeoff that cannot be meaningfully debated if a pre-implantation zygote is equated to an adult human. The ethical tradeoff, in my opinion, involves on one side the degree of sentience in the foetus and on the other side the burden that it imposes on the mother, on the parents and/or on society.

In pre-industrial societies it was not unheard of to leave newborn babies to the wolves if the household, village or tribe could not support them. The tradeoff then was the life of the baby vs. the life of the tribe. Fortunately, in a first-world country with adequate government support for babies that their parents can't - for whatever reason - handle, the tradeoff is less stark. And so infanticide is illegal.

Precisely when the burden imposed on the parent begins to outweigh the foetus' right to life is, of course, not an issue that can be settled by applying a simple formula. Personally, I think - and IIRC Danish law agrees with me - third-trimester abortions should be avoided except in exceptional circumstances: The gain for the woman in a late-term abortion, both in medical, psychological and social terms, is judged to be too small to justify terminating a foetus with a moderately developed central nervous system. But it can, of course, be argued that the line should be earlier or later in the pregnancy, and what constitutes "exceptional circumstances" can also be debated.

And it may be that in the future we find a way to safely extract an embryo in the early stages of development and - say - freeze it and store it for later implantation in an involuntarily childless couple (or even growing it in an artificial womb). In which case I would think that terminating the pregnancy in more old-fashioned ways would be highly frowned upon.

But we are not there yet, and I have yet to hear a single convincing argument for granting a homunculus with less brain power than an uncommonly stupid Golden Retriever full equality with a born baby, much less a grown human (frankly, I find the latter comparison insulting).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 02:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series