Monday, May 12, 2008

“What if your mother had aborted you?"

At the RH Reality Check blog, Frances Kissling tries to answer the question, “What if your mother had aborted you?" and reveals some exceptionally poor responses.
In the beginning, my answer was fairly abstract, philosophical. I'd note that the "I" who stands before them is not the "I" that was once a fetus. The I of today is the result of a mother who continued a pregnancy and the process of becoming that made me who I am today.
What silliness! So that wasn’t you who was kicking in your mother’s womb? That must have been some other organism who later because the organism that you are?

Since her time in the womb, Frances Kissling has increased in size and abilities, developed physically and mentally but the entity which was outside Kissling’s mother after birth is the same entity which inside Kissling’s mother before birth. A journey down the birth canal doesn’t magically change that.

Kissling now has a different response:
I feel a need to turn that question around and to ask instead: What if your mother's life would have been significantly happier and healthier if she had not had you? If you as a fetus had the capacity to make decisions, would you have given your life for your mother's life, health and happiness?
The simple response to this question is that human beings don’t have the right to kill other innocent human beings even if killing other human beings makes them happier and healthier. Presumed future happiness is in no way proper justification for killing a human being.

Kissling’s answer gets even more ridiculous as she says her mother “never should have had children.” She then describes various hardships her mother went through until Kissling hired her mother to work as “the head of the telephone appointment staff” at Kissling’s abortion clinic. Kissling’s mother “flourished” at the position her daughter hired her for and eventually “moved to DC and was the practice manager for a busy orthopedic practice. Her pleasure and first time security was cut short by lung cancer and at the age of 58 she died.”

Kissling then notes,
As a fetus I would have gladly given up my chance to enter the world and become Frances Kissling to have given my mother a better chance at happiness.
Well, that’s something which is much easier to state when you know it can no longer happen. It’s much easier to claim, “I’d rather have been killed in the womb” when your born and enjoy the legal protections birth brings. The statement also erroneously assumes that as a fetus Kissling wasn’t in the world. She was in the world, she was just in the womb at the time. If Kissling’s non-existence would have helped her mother out so much and Kissling cared so much about how mother’s happiness, then would Kissling have been willing to have been killed once outside the womb? Probably not. She hasn’t made any argument for why it’s okay to abort for presumed future happiness but not okay to kill infants/toddlers/adolscents for presumed future happiness.

Kissling concludes:
If we are going to imagine, as some do, fetuses as part of the human community, we are going to have to accept that if they could make decisions, they might be as willing to sacrifice for others as we demand that women and only women be.
So if fetuses could make decisions, they might be willing to be intentionally killed for their mothers’ presumed future happiness? And as unlikely as that is, would that make killing them okay? Is it okay to kill someone for your future happiness if they’re willing to be killed for your future happiness?

Also notice Kissling’s play on the word “sacrifice.” It’s true that mothers often make tremendous sacrifices for their children. But they typically aren’t killed for their children or willing to die to raise their children’s level of presumed future happiness. Yet that’s the sacrifice Kissling is claiming hypothetical decision-making fetuses might be willing to make. Kissling is equating making sacrifices with being a sacrifice.

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