Philosophy tube’s Error in Argumentation concerning Abortion and the pro-choice mindset
In a video posted over two years ago, Abigail Thorn (known at the time as Oliver Thorn) presents an interesting case for the pro-choice movement in the discussion of abortion. The case made assumes a fetus to be a morally complete human instead of the usual argument that life starts at birth, not at conception.
There are some minor problems I have with Thorn’s video. Though I won’t respond to all of them, mostly because they are not actually relevant to the discussion of abortion.
For instance, it is mentioned that 1 to 2 thirds of fertilized eggs do not implant in the wall of the uterus.
If life were to start at conception, then this would be among the leading cases of death worldwide.
My problem with this argument is that these “deaths” are not morally significant to our discussion. The pro-life camp primarily has an issue with the murder of unborn babies, dying from natural causes is a completely different issue, entirely separate because no one carries moral responsibility in this case.
The actual argument on abortion Thorn makes is far more interesting.
Before I summarize Thorn’s point, I wish to highlight the fact that this response will take neither a pro-life nor a pro-choice stance. I simply wish to cast a light on a glaring oversight in Thorn’s reasoning.
In the video, Thorn uses a powerful metaphor to as a vessel for the overall argument.
The play starts with a pro-life radio host (inspired heavily by political commentator and media host Ben Shapiro) being kidnapped by one of his fans.
The reason for this kidnapping is that the kidnapper knows a man in need of kidney dialysis.
Instead of hooking this man up to an electrical dialysis machine, the kidnapper instead connects the patient directly to our kidnapped radio host.
The parallels to pregnancy are (according to Thorn) quite obvious. We have one human being (who receives full moral consideration) who depends, as a parasite would, on the bodily functions of another. Discounting the patient from the radio host would result in the patient’s death.
The radio host himself claims in the early parts of the video that “Killing human beings is wrong, and your right to convenience cannot outweigh that”. This puts him in a moral dilemma because he believes that escaping from his captive position would amount to killing the patient, however there is also the moral value of his own freedom to consider.
The interesting debate between killing and letting-die is also brought up here.
I won’t go into further detail about the exact circumstances or outcome of the play, because I have given the information relevant to the argument I will present shortly. I do however encourage you to watch the video for yourself, as it is both well-made and intriguing.
The problem I have with the metaphor Thorn presents concerns the events leading up to the capture of our beloved radio host.
In the play, the radio host has done nothing that would realistically lead to his incarceration.
He was only chosen as a dialysis machine because of his views on abortion.
With pregnancy however, there is a clear and well-known cause being sexual intercourse. I am of the personal opinion that when engaging in sexual activity, you carry the moral duty to be informed of the possible effects and to take responsibility for these effects. In other words, when you decide to have sex, you accept moral responsibility in case of a pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease or even of social effects the act may have.
Within this framework, Thorn’s metaphor is only an example of rape. Because the radio host had not choice in being kidnapped.
Now, I will reformulate the metaphor presented in Thorn’s video to include this moral act that causes the incarceration.
Say that there was a government program for people to sign up to become human dialysis machines. If you sign up, you will receive a one time payment for 100,000 dollars and your name will be put in a bowl alongside many others. The radio host signs up only for the money, since the chance that he will be incarcerated is minuscule. A parallel with people having sex for reasons other than having children and using contraceptives to have a minimal chance of pregnancy.
Now that our radio host has signed up to this program and received his financial gratification, his name is actually pulled, and he will be turned into a dialysis machine for 9 months. In this new situation, there is a new factor in play. In the old story, there was a power struggle between the right to freedom of the radio host and the right to live of the patient. Now, there is the additional factor that the radio host is directly responsible for losing his freedom for 9 months. He may not have considered the risk, or thought it negligible, but nevertheless, the risk was known. It was the radio host’s responsibility to inform himself of the potential effects and now that he is in this compromised position, it may be said that he has a moral responsibility to perform his function, facilitating the parasitic patient for the next 9 months.
Thorn’s case then can only stand if she does not believe that one accepts moral responsibility for one’s actions. And just to reiterate, the point also stands in the case of non-consensual sex.
If you have any thoughts with consider worth sharing, you can send me an email at the address email@example.com.
A note from the author
In this post, I struggled slightly with how to refer to Thorn and his/her work. This issue I found myself struggling with is that the video I discuss is posted by one Oliver Thorn. I would naturally refer to his video and would construct sentences like “he claims”. Ultimately, I decided against using his/her first name and using female pronouns throughout the post.
My main philosophical concern is the difference in character anyone experiences over a period of two years. I am responding to a claim made by a person who no-longer exists. The person two is the metaphorical child of the one I am responding to goes by a different name and asks to be referred to with feminine pronouns (at least to my knowledge). The question I was left with is “Am I responding to the thoughts of Thorn now or the historical one captured in video?”
So then, in the astronomical event that current-day Abigail Thorn reads this, if you are discontent with the way I have referred to you or your name, I do apologize, such was not my intention.
For everyone who plans to be offended in Thorn’s place, your emails will be redirected to my spam box.