Why dependency and viability fails to justify abortion

I’ve started writing a short six part series on five categories that every pro-choice argument falls into and why they fail to justify abortion. This is the first of those five categories. Put nicely the argument is that because the fetus is still dependent on the mother to survive while still in the womb, it is permissible for the mother to end the pregnancy.

Put in a bit more an emotional form, pro-choice advocates may argue that the mother is is in some way unable to provide for the future of the child in the best manner possible. Why should a mother be forced to carry a child that she will in some way, be it financially or emotionally, she will not best be able to provide for. Would it not be better that she wait until she is able to better take care of a child and have a child then? Would you really wish to put a child in that sort of circumstance?

As stated in the first part of this series all of these pro-life arguments in the end break down into the fact that miss the central question of the abortion debate. Is it human?

When dealing with the justification of dependency the argument is broken down into two parts. First, is the scientific understanding that a child still in the womb is physically dependent on the mother. The second, is the practical side in which the child is dependent on the mother, which pulls more on emotional heart strings.

Dealing first with the scientific aspect. The argument tries to make the point that because a child is physically dependent on the mother, then the mother is justified in ending its’ life. A fetus is literally dependent on the mother for everything at its’ start and not until the very end is it really viable, therefore the woman should not be forced to care for something that is dependent on her and not viable on its’ own.

Several problems exist here. For one, it is not as if even after birth that a child is really viable on its’ own. The baby cannot feed itself, cloth itself, or shelter itself. So if viability is what makes someone a human, it must admitted that until a child is able to do those things any parent would be justified in killing their own child. This of course would result in mothers being able to kill their children till they were working their own jobs which is obviously objectionable.

Second, this also ignores the many fully grown humans who are dependent on other things to survive. Some people are dependent on drugs, an artificial heart, insulin, oxygen tanks or a number of other things. Are these people, since they are not viable on their own, viewed as non-human and therefore can be killed?

Finally, the argument acts as if there is some sort of Dracula like blood sucking that the child is doing to the mother. We have to remember this is a natural process. Women are not simply bedridden and useless while they are pregnant. Most mothers are even able to do their jobs even up until they give birth. I am not trying to downplay that pregnancy is hard, and that it has a great many inconveniences, but I think we can agree that someone having to undergo some inconveniences has never in any circumstances justified murder.

It may be inconvenient someone must deal with a particularly frustrating boss but the knowledge that inconvenience would end if that boss was killed wouldn’t justify the employee committing murder.

When dealing with the practical element of this the argument is much more emotional in nature, appealing to the ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’ emotional feelings one has of seeing a child in suffering. But as unjust or unfair as it may seem, a mother who is ill-equipped to take care of a child, for whatever reason, is not justified in ending a child’s life.

Many children across the world grow up in environments well outside of the ideal of what we would prefer children to grow up in, but that does not justify the killing of those children. Because a child in a third world country may go through rough times even to a lack of nutrition, that would never give us, or even the mother justification to kill the child. A mother who may be able to provide financially for her child, but lacks the proper parenting skills would not be justified to kill their child because of their lack of parenting skills. Even in circumstances where we see parents abusing and mistreating their child we would not say that these parents are justified in killing a child. The inability of parents to raise a child is not justification to kill the child, it is justification to take that child away from that parent.

To argue further that our foster care or adoption systems are horrible places for children and no child should be sent there in no way would ever justify killing a child either. A bad childcare system is not justification for ending a child’s life but justification for reforming the system.

So in the end as intellectual and emotional as this argument sounds at first glance further examination shows us that it cannot justify abortion.

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