Abortion and the Right to Life - Part IIIWritten by Sam Vaknin
Having reviewed above arguments and counter-arguments, Don Marquis goes on (in "Why Abortion is Immoral", 1989) to offer a sharper and more comprehensive criterion: terminating a life is morally wrong because a person has a future filled with value and meaning, similar to ours.
But whole debate is unnecessary. There is no conflict between rights of mother and those of her fetus because there is never a conflict between parties to an agreement. By signing an agreement, mother gave up some of her rights and limited others. This is normal practice in contracts: they represent compromises, optimization (and not maximization) of parties' rights and wishes. The rights of fetus are an inseparable part of contract which mother signed voluntarily and reasonably. They are derived from mother's behaviour. Getting willingly pregnant (or assuming risk of getting pregnant by not using contraceptives reasonably) – is behaviour which validates and ratifies a contract between her and fetus. Many contracts are by behaviour, rather than by a signed piece of paper. Numerous contracts are verbal or behavioural. These contracts, though implicit, are as binding as any of their written, more explicit, brethren. Legally (and morally) situation is crystal clear: mother signed some of her rights away in this contract. Even if she regrets it – she cannot claim her rights back by annulling contract unilaterally. No contract can be annulled this way – consent of both parties is required. Many times we realize that we have entered a bad contract, but there is nothing much that we can do about it. These are rules of game.
Thus two remaining questions: (a) can this specific contract (pregnancy) be annulled and, if so (b) in which circumstances – can be easily settled using modern contract law. Yes, a contract can be annulled and voided if signed under duress, involuntarily, by incompetent persons (e.g., insane), or if one of parties made a reasonable and full scale attempt to prevent its signature, thus expressing its clear will not to sign contract. It is also terminated or voided if it would be unreasonable to expect one of parties to see it through. Rape, contraception failure, life threatening situations are all such cases.
This could be argued against by saying that, in case of economic hardship, f or instance, damage to mother's future is certain. True, her value- filled, meaningful future is granted – but so is detrimental effect that fetus will have on it, once born. This certainty cannot be balanced by UNCERTAIN value-filled future life of embryo. Always, preferring an uncertain good to a certain evil is morally wrong. But surely this is a quantitative matter – not a qualitative one. Certain, limited aspects of rest of mother's life will be adversely effected (and can be ameliorated by society's helping hand and intervention) if she does have baby. The decision not to have it is both qualitatively and qualitatively different. It is to deprive unborn of all aspects of all his future life – in which he might well have experienced happiness, values, and meaning.
The questions whether fetus is a Being or a growth of cells, conscious in any manner, or utterly unconscious, able to value his life and to want them – are all but irrelevant. He has potential to lead a happy, meaningful, value-filled life, similar to ours, very much as a one minute old baby does. The contract between him and his mother is a service provision contract. She provides him with goods and services that he requires in order to materialize his potential. It sounds very much like many other human contracts. And this contract continue well after pregnancy has ended and birth given.
Consider education: children do not appreciate its importance or value its potential – still, it is enforced upon them because we, who are capable of those feats, want them to have tools that they will need in order to develop their potential. In this and many other respects, human pregnancy continues well into fourth year of life (physiologically it continues in to second year of life - see "Born Alien"). Should location of pregnancy (in uterus, in vivo) determine its future? If a mother has right to abort at will, why should mother be denied her right to terminate " pregnancy" AFTER fetus emerges and pregnancy continues OUTSIDE her womb? Even after birth, woman's body is main source of food to baby and, in any case, she has to endure physical hardship to raise child. Why not extend woman's ownership of her body and right to it further in time and space to post-natal period?
Contracts to provide goods and services (always at a personal cost to provider) are commonest of contracts. We open a business. We sell a software application, we publish a book – we engage in helping others to materialize their potential. We should always do so willingly and reasonably – otherwise contracts that we sign will be null and void. But to deny anyone his capacity to materialize his potential and goods and services that he needs to do so – after a valid contract was entered into - is immoral. To refuse to provide a service or to condition it provision (Mother: " I will provide goods and services that I agreed to provide to this fetus under this contract only if and when I benefit from such provision") is a violation of contract and should be penalized. Admittedly, at times we have a right to choose to do immoral (because it has not been codified as illegal) – but that does not turn it into moral.
The Murder of Oneself Written by Sam Vaknin
Those who believe in finality of death (i.e., that there is no after-life) – they are ones who advocate suicide and regard it as a matter of personal choice. On other hand, those who firmly believe in some form of existence after corporeal death – they condemn suicide and judge it to be a major sin. Yet, rationally, situation should have been reversed: it should have been easier for someone who believed in continuity after death to terminate this phase of existence on way to next. Those who faced void, finality, non-existence, vanishing – should have been greatly deterred by it and should have refrained even from entertaining idea. Either latter do not really believe what they profess to believe – or something is wrong with rationality. One would tend to suspect former.
Suicide is very different from self sacrifice, avoidable martyrdom, engaging in life risking activities, refusal to prolong one's life through medical treatment, euthanasia, overdosing and self inflicted death that is result of coercion. What is common to all these is operational mode: a death caused by one's own actions. In all these behaviours, a foreknowledge of risk of death is present coupled with its acceptance. But all else is so different that they cannot be regarded as belonging to same class. Suicide is chiefly intended to terminate a life – other acts are aimed at perpetuating, strengthening and defending values.
Those who commit suicide do so because they firmly believe in finiteness of life and in finality of death. They prefer termination to continuation. Yet, all others, observers of this phenomenon, are horrified by this preference. They abhor it. This has to do with out understanding of meaning of life.
Ultimately, life has only meanings that we attribute and ascribe to it. Such a meaning can be external (God's plan) or internal (meaning generated through arbitrary selection of a frame of reference). But, in any case, it must be actively selected, adopted and espoused. The difference is that, in case of external meanings, we have no way to judge their validity and quality (is God's plan for us a good one or not?). We just "take them on" because they are big, all encompassing and of a good "source". A hyper-goal generated by a superstructural plan tends to lend meaning to our transient goals and structures by endowing them with gift of eternity. Something eternal is always judged more meaningful than something temporal. If a thing of less or no value acquires value by becoming part of a thing eternal – than meaning and value reside with quality of being eternal – not with thing thus endowed. It is not a question of success. Plans temporal are as successfully implemented as designs eternal. Actually, there is no meaning to question: is this eternal plan / process / design successful because success is a temporal thing, linked to endeavours that have clear beginnings and ends.
This, therefore, is first requirement: our life can become meaningful only by integrating into a thing, a process, a being eternal. In other words, continuity (the temporal image of eternity, to paraphrase a great philosopher) is of essence. Terminating our life at will renders them meaningless. A natural termination of our life is naturally preordained. A natural death is part and parcel of very eternal process, thing or being which lends meaning to life. To die naturally is to become part of an eternity, a cycle, which goes on forever of life, death and renewal. This cyclic view of life and creation is inevitable within any thought system, which incorporates a notion of eternity. Because everything is possible given an eternal amount of time – so are resurrection and reincarnation, afterlife, hell and other beliefs adhered to by eternal lot.
Sidgwick raised second requirement and with certain modifications by other philosophers, it reads: to begin to appreciate values and meanings, a consciousness (intelligence) must exist. True, value or meaning must reside in or pertain to a thing outside consciousness / intelligence. But, even then, only conscious, intelligent people will be able to appreciate it.
We can fuse two views: meaning of life is consequence of their being part of some eternal goal, plan, process, thing, or being. Whether this holds true or does not – a consciousness is called for in order to appreciate life's meaning. Life is meaningless in absence of consciousness or intelligence. Suicide flies in face of both requirements: it is a clear and present demonstration of transience of life (the negation of NATURAL eternal cycles or processes). It also eliminates consciousness and intelligence that could have judged life to have been meaningful had it survived. Actually, this very consciousness / intelligence decides, in case of suicide, that life has no meaning whatsoever. To a very large extent, meaning of life is perceived to be a collective matter of conformity. Suicide is a statement, writ in blood, that community is wrong, that life is meaningless and final (otherwise, suicide would not have been committed).