What do we risk when we give serious consideration to the argument that some humans may not be human enough to be protected by society?
From a Ph.D. student:
Perhaps neither of these situations is particularly plausible. But more plausible, I think, is a third: imagine again that abortion is murder and that my first student avoids pregnancy in medical school. She becomes an obstetrician and spends a career delivering healthy babies to happy parents. Only intermittently do those parents ask her, instead, to abort their children. When they ask this of her, she first remembers the principles that she learned as a child — but she then remembers the many arguments that I taught her. She remembers that she is a doctor, a woman of the world, and that whatever seems to be black and white is always, in the end, many shades of gray. Surely, she thinks, abortion cannot be as bad as they say: it is distasteful, certainly, but hardly evil. It is a thing to be done and forgotten.
And so she kills. Not often, and not gladly. But she kills nonetheless. And the blood that spills is, at least partly, on my hands.
This, then, is my fear. When I voiced it to a fellow graduate student, he reassured me that our students do not listen to us anyway. Which may well be true. But it is better not to take the chance if the stakes are as high as we take them to be — if, for example, abortion really is murder. Consider a parallel case: we teach our children, before we send them off to college, that murder is wrong. We would never allow them to take, much less demand that they take, a course that would seriously question this — that would, so to speak, look at both sides of the murder debate. What would be the point? Even if said course did not manipulate them into the pro-death camp, presenting that camp as though it were a legitimate option — as though intelligent and responsible students sometimes concluded that murder is permissible, or even a human right — could only serve to weaken their resolve: if the best philosophers cannot agree that murder is wrong, they might think in a moment of rage, who can blame them for murdering?