Let’s hear it for the class of 2014! Here’s a great example of a thinking young woman who wrote for the Harvard Crimson. The Comments are very good, too!
In response to the growing hostility toward discussion of the abortion issue on campus and dissolution into name-calling, as seen in the impressively consistent vandalism of Harvard Right to Life’s poster campaigns, I’d like to present a philosophical argument for the pro-life position. HRL’s innocuous “Smile, your mom chose life.” posters have been ripped down within hours of posting almost without exception. At a school where free speech and diversity are valued so highly, this is a travesty. However, it seems to follow from the fact that the Harvard community limits its dialogue about abortion to religion and politics. I will set these aside to address the ethics of the situation, without which reasonable discussion is impossible.
The reason there is so much tension and so little understanding between individuals of differing opinions on the abortion issue is that the two sides approach it from completely different angles. The “pro-choice” side emphasizes women and their rights while the pro-life side focuses on the other person involved. We can all agree that women should have control over their bodies—but it is imperative to determine whether or not a second person is involved before we can talk about women’s rights.
The philosophical argument for life has two simple premises one from natural value and one from natural science.
The premise based on natural value is that all human beings have the right to life because they are human. Surprisingly enough, this is the premise that most pro-abortion philosophers will disagree with in the modern debate—they will deny universal values altogether and argue instead that values are simply subjective.
The premise based on natural science is that the life of each individual mammal begins at conception. Modern science has made it nearly impossible to defend the view that the fetus is not human, considering that from the moment of conception it has human DNA, so the issue centers on personhood. If the human is a person only when neurologically functioning as a human, then by that same argument it would be permissible to kill people while they are in deep sleep, in comas, or mentally handicapped. Similar arguments can be made for location and viability. The only time when we can consistently argue the human fetus becomes a person is when he or she becomes human: at conception.