ETHICS: Responsability to life and the Abortion Issue

Arjen Kamphuis (
Fri, 6 Mar 1998 16:40:45 +0100 (CET)

At 22:41 5-03-98 -0800 Mark Miloscia <> wrote:
> Two key questions. Should we individually or collectively value all
> human life? Do we have a (moral) responsiblity, individually or
> collectively, to prevent or reduce human suffering and death? If you
> answer yes, the failure of anyone to act is wrong.

I'll answer 'Yes'. And then I have a big problem. Because if that's so. if
that is what I say I believe... Then what am I doing waisting my time
typing E-mails when I should be clearing mines in Aghanistan or
volunteering for Medicine Sans Frontiers in Namibia?

It's easy to state we have a moral responsibility, living up to it to that
responsibility could very well cost you a years of recovery therapy, a limb
or your life. I speak from up-close & personal expercience.

> In any case, what is good for my wife or Hillary should then be good enough
> for the rest of humanity. We can stop or reduce the dying, we just don't
> think a million Ethiopians are worth one spouse. That is immoral.

When you think about it rationally (whatever that still means in this
context...) it seems to me clearly immoral to allow all kinds of suffering
when we have the means to end it (or most of it). When you're in a public
place and someone has a heartattack what do you do? Surely it's not your
fault that this person has a bad heart but that does not mean you have no
obligation as one human to another to do the best you can (even if this is
not much).
But how many people have volunteered for Red Cross activities in Africa or
something like that? Are all those people immoral? I think not. So what's
wrong with this picture?

> Which brings us to abortion. When do those cells become human and worth
> protecting? Are they equal to Etiopians? The proverbial gray area seems
> to be one mircosecond after conception to one microsecond before conception

Why? Respectfully, I still do not understand what is so special about this
biological event. It is stated again and again as a 'fact' but I don't see it.

> (though some old-fashioned Chinese peasents push the boundry a little
> further). I honestly believe that no one here, or anywhere else, has put
> forth a good arguement that at "________" (period of time) after
> conception, you become a human and then get this special protection.

The fact that we cannot pinpoint this down to the second does not mean
there can be consesus about an certain 'time-window' during wich the status
of 'fetus' changes to 'human'. Under Dutch law the the status of fetus
lasts untill several months (I have no exact figures) before the child can
survive outside the womb.
The overwhelming majority of Europeans citizens agrees with this law as
being ethical (are they all primitive barbarians?).


On one side we have a group of people claiming that one is human after
conception because 'something' happens then even though they don't don't
know what that something is.

On the other side we have a group of people saying that somewhere during
the growthproces a fetus becomes a human even though they are not sure when

Neither side seems to be able to bring 100% solid scientific or ethical
'proof' for their opinion (at least I have't heard it). It then becomes a
question of who's is going to force their opinion of who. No-one is forced
to have an abortion (AFAIK). I respect the fact that some people would
never have an abortion because they feel 'it would not be right'. That's
OK. However, I do not think that gives anyone the right to enforce their
opinions on others.

The _problem_ is of course that those who are against abortion feel that
the fetus being aborted is a human who is killed based on the opinion of

And then we're full circle.

I do not know if it's possible to break this so I'll choose for individual
freedom of choice.

> I am
> then left to weigh the relative importance of curtailing for a few months
> a persons right to make a certain decision (and the ensuing discomfort of
> childbirth) vs the possibilitity of taking a human life. Believing in
> mandatory seatbelts, DWI laws, and other minor loss of freedoms,

Having a baby when you're 16 is not a 'minor' loss of freedom. I will
problably define the rest of such a persons life. And the fact that the
baby has a mother who may not yet be ready for the task of raising a child
could very well define a large part of the baby's life too. So with all due
respect I would say that there is a bit more involved than wearing a seatbelt.

> I vote (dare I say choose) life over discomfort.

See above, clearing mines is _very_ uncomfortable and could very well cost
you your life. Is it worth it?

> However, my mom always taught me that "the good guys always win in the end"
> and my Christian faith also teaches me the same. So I just fight the good
> fight, don't worry to much and try to be happy :-)

Allow me to say "Amen" (in spite of the fact that I'm the 5th generation of
Atheists in my family ;-)


Arjen Kamphuis | Learn as if you will live forever. | Live as though you will die tomorrow.

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