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The Aborted Contract

Sam Vaknin’s Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites

The issue of abortion is emotionally loaded and this often makes for poor, not thoroughly thought out arguments. The questions: “Is abortion immoral” and “Is abortion a murder” are often confused. The pregnancy (and the resulting foetus) are discussed in terms normally reserved to natural catastrophes (force majeure, in legal lingo). At times, the embryo is compared to cancer: after all, they are both growths, clusters of cells. The difference, of course, is that no one contracts cancer willingly (except, to some extent, smokers –but, then they gamble, not contract). When a woman engages in voluntary sex, does not use contraceptives and gets pregnant – one can say that she signed a contract with her foetus. A contract entails the demonstrated existence of a reasonably (and reasonable) free will. If the fulfilment of the obligations in a contract could be life-threatening – it is fair and safe to assume that no rational free will was involved. No reasonable person would sign or enter such a contract. Judith Jarvis Thomson argued convincingly (“A Defence of Abortion”) that pregnancies that are the result of forced sex (rape being a special case) or which are life threatening should or could, morally, be terminated. Using the transactional language : the contract was not entered to willingly or reasonably and, therefore, is null and void. Any actions which are intended to terminate it and to annul its consequences should be legally and morally permissible.

The same goes for a contract which was entered into against the express will of one of the parties and despite all the reasonable measures that the unwilling party adopted to prevent its crystallization. If a mother uses contraceptives in a manner intended to prevent pregnancy, it is as good as saying: I do not want to sign this contract, I am doing my reasonable best not to sign it, if it is signed – it is contrary to my express will. There is little legal (or moral) doubt that such a contract should be voided. Much more serious problems arise when we study the other party to these implicit agreements: the embryo. To start with, it lacks consciousness (in the sense that is needed for signing an enforceable and valid contract). Can a contract be validated even if one of the “signatories” lacked this sine qua non trait? In the absence of consciousness, there is little point in talking about free will.

Abortion – How can I Impose My Morality on Another?

Abortion – How can I Impose My Morality on Another?

“I’m opposed to abortion, but how can I impose my morality on someone else?” This common expression expresses the sentiments of one who wishes to be open to the religious convictions of another on this delicate issue of abortion.

In that statement, replace the word “abortion” with anything else you’re opposed to. Like “I’m opposed to racism, but how can I impose my morality on someone else?” or “I’m opposed to rape, but how can I impose my morality on someone else?” Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why can we impose our “morality” on someone when it comes to racism or rape? Because there’s someone else involved. Raping isn’t a “choice” a rapist makes in a vacuum – it involves a victim whose life will be altered forever because of that rape. Racism isn’t a “choice” made in a vacuum, either. The actions of a racist storekeeper defending his “choice” to do what he wants with his store involve blacks who are unjustly kept from shopping there. The issue here is not “private morality” but civil rights – keeping innocent people from becoming victims.

What about abortion? Is it a matter of private morality, like deciding which church you’re going to attend, or is it a matter of public morality – a matter of civil rights? If there’s a victim involved, it’s a civil rights issue. Is there a victim involved in abortion? There are many who say that there is not, that the preborn child is just a mass of tissue, a part of the woman’s body. If this were the case, then no one would have any reason to oppose abortion any more than they would oppose tonsillectomies or appendectomies.

But is that the case? Developments in the science of fetology have given us greater opportunities than ever to learn about the preborn. We know that the baby has a completely different circulatory system than the mother, and often a different blood type. He or she has a completely different genetic code. We know that by the 21st day after conception the baby’s heart has begun to beat (Tanner 64). Brain waves are detectable by day 40 (Hamlin 20), and movement also begins around this time (Arey). By eight weeks, when a woman generally discovers she’s pregnant, all body systems are present (Hooker).

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