Friday, 17 January 2014

Should protesters be allowed to protest outside of abortion clinics?

I recently came across an article about a man who escorts patients into abortion clinics past protesters.  I don't know what to think about whether people should be able to protest at all in front of clinics.  What do you guys think?


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Responding to the Responsibility Objection: Part 2

I've recently come into contact with a pro-life blogger named Clinton Wilcox, who runs a blog called Pro-life Philosophy.  He has written some well thought out objections to the bodily rights defense of abortion that I advocate.  I'd like to take the time to respond.
I used two thought experiments in my response to the responsibility objection, the first involves a driver who accidently runs over a kid.  Clinton responded with this counter-argument.
“This thought experiment actually ignores two key factors: First, where is the responsibility located? Why was this kid just playing around the street without his parents supervising him? It seems to me that in this case, the parents are responsible for letting their kid play around the street and possibly getting hit. The man who hit the kid would probably feel horrible, but it doesn't seem to me that the situation would be his fault unless, of course, he was driving recklessly (and the point of this thought experiment is that the driver is being "safe").”

Alright, it seems like he is saying that because you're not responsible for hitting the kid you should not be forced to donate your kidney.  He says that the parents are responsible for your hitting their kid.  Okay, so let’s say Clinton is right and the parents are responsible.  Does this undermine the thought experiment?  To find out let's just change the analogy so that it is taking place from the point of view of the parents. 

Imagine you and your wife are watching your three year old adopted child from the window.  He is playing with a ball in the back yard.  You both turn away for about 10 seconds to load the dishwasher.  During that time, the ball your child was playing with rolls into the street.  He runs after it and gets hit by a car.  He now needs a kidney transplant.  You are the only match.  Are you morally or legally obligated to donate to your adopted child? 
It seems to me at least, that you would be a bad person if you refused to donate.  However, does it follow that you should be legally obligated?  Should you be charged with some form of homicide for refusing to donate?  I still don’t think so, even though you should be considered legally responsible for the child’s neediness, it seems you should not be legally obligated to provide this kind of extensive bodily compensation.  Other forms of compensation seem plausible, but not bodily compensation, at least bodily compensation that requires significant, long-term sacrifice.    

“Second, there is a distinction between driving and having sex. Driving a car is not an act that leads to running over people as the act of sex leads to pregnancy. No one should be hit by cars if all people are acting responsibly and being safe on the road, but sex is an act that intrinsically (that is, by the very nature of the act) leads to pregnancy”.

Is sex something that leads to pregnancy by its very nature?  I guess that would depend on what you mean by “its very nature”.  “Nature” is kind of a vague term that can mean a lot of different things, especially in ethics.  So, I guess in order to really be sure I am responding to his actual objection and not attacking a straw man I need Clinton to clarify what he means by “nature” in this case.  That being said, I have some responses to a few different interpretations of the word "natural".    

One way of interpreting that sex in its very nature leads to pregnancy could mean that sex is necessary or sufficient for pregnancy.  If this is what he means then I think he is wrong, sex is not necessary or sufficient for pregnancy.  Sterile couples can have unprotected sex perpetually, forever and that would never result in a pregnancy.  Therefore sex is not sufficient for pregnancy; there are other biological and environmental factors that must be at play in order for a pregnancy to occur.  Pregnancy can also result from IVF.  IVF does not require sex at all.  Therefore, sex is not necessary for pregnancy.  So although sex CAN lead to pregnancy, it is not need to.  Driving is similar in this respect.  Driving a car is not something that necessarily or sufficient for injury or death.

Another thing he might mean is that the purpose of sex is to procreate.  If this is what he means, he is correct that this is a disanalogy (a purpose of sex is for procreation, but the purpose of driving is transportation not hurting kidneys).  However, is this a morally relevant disanalogy?  To find out lets use another analogy that involves someone getting injured while using an item whose purpose is injury and death.

Imagine you are teaching your young daughter how to shoot a gun.  One of the purposes of a gun is to kill.  You are using all the safety precautions you can, but an accident occurs and your daughter is shot in a way that requires her to need a kidney transplant.  Should you be legally obligated to give her your kidney? 

I still don’t think so.  Again, I think you would be doing something wrong if you refused to donate, but I don't think it should be illegal for you to refuse.  So, this disanalogy does not seem to undermine the argument.

“But at any rate, again, you are not obligated to give up your kidney. Putting up a sign is a nice warning, but you are not responsible for the patron's slipping and falling. Presumably he can see the water on the ground, and presumably he knows that water makes things slippery. Suing for a kidney in this case would be about as frivolous a lawsuit as they come.”

The reason businesses have slippery when wet signs is because they have been sued when people slip and fall.  People can and do succeed at making frivolous law suits.  But setting the frivolousness of the lawsuit aside the point of the analogy was to show that if we give people a legal obligation to give bodily compensation people would be able to sue others for their organs.  I think this is a huge problem with the responsibility objection regardless of whether or not people are suing each other frivolously.  Imagine a scenario where someone sues you for a good reason, would that make suing you for your kidney any less problematic?  I still don't think so.