This is an entry in the Pro-Abortion series.
A third argument for the pro-abortion position is the consequentialist challenge. People may argue that a pro-abortion stance, if widely adopted, would have bad consequences for society or for mankind. This is a logical fallacy called appeal to consequences (more about this in the last entry of the series, Abortion: the endgame).
However, there may be a different kind of consequentialist argument, not based on global social effects but on the direct consequence of an abortion or the refusal to abort. Certainly, if abortion entails a great amount of suffering, one could argue that making abortions the default is simply not worth it. Anti-abortion people argue on those grounds when they claim that abortions create permanent trauma.
But the numbers are on my side. As I pointed out in part 1 of the Pakaluk entry, women who give birth are tremendously more at risk of psychiatric problems (72% rise in cases) than woman who get abortions (4% rise in cases). Furthermore, in the US, the death ratio for abortion is 1 death per 100,000 abortions over the past 35 years (some of which, in the early years, were still illegal), while the death ratio for childbirth was 16.6 deaths per 100,000 live birth in 2009. So in effect, the 50 million abortions that have taken place since the re-legalization of abortion have saved the lives of approximately 7500 young and healthy women.
As for who regrets what more, this is rather hard to determine, especially since regretting having one’s child is a taboo in our society; nevertheless, the fact that many parents express their woes when they can be anonymous (such as on Secret Confessions) is an indication that there is discontent.
Antinatalism provides its own unique arguments for the pro-abortion position, such as Benatar’s Asymmetry: non-existing people do not suffer like existing people do, and they are not deprived of the pleasures that existing people experience, so existence can never be better than non-existence. This makes it clear that starting new human lives can never be better than aborting, because it is always worse for a life to start. Therefore, a consistent consequentialist should always be pro-abortion (except of course those who have an inbuilt bias for existence, but such a bias would have to be justified).
This also justifies using the Golden Rule as an argument for the pro-abortion position. People may feel that their life is worth living, but, logically, it can never be the case that their life should have been started. Rationally, if such a possibility could ever be proposed to a non-existing person, no one should want their life to start. Therefore, we should also “do unto others” the relative goodness of not starting their lives.
As Benatar argues in Better Never to Have Been, abortion is also a good response to the Golden Rule because it is a cautious action. He points out that some people do feel that their lives are not worth starting, but most disagree. So we have to start from the premise that any given person that is born may or may not regret eir existence. The consequences of starting the life of someone who will come to regret eir existence may be disastrous; the consequences of aborting the life of someone who will not regret eir existence are zero. Therefore, again, the Golden Rule leads us to a pro-abortion position.
Now, for the second central concept of the pro-abortion position, which is really two concepts in one: the child’s right to health and the child’s right to love. I have explained the justification of both of these in my entry on reproductive rights. I have also said that people who are not able to fulfill these rights should not have children.
This, I think, provides us with another powerful pro-abortion argument. People who plan to have children, but cannot vouch that they can give their children the highest attainable standard of health (both at birth and afterwards) and the highest attainable standard of love, support and protection, should not be having children, because to do so would be criminal in nature and deprives future adults of the physical and mental tools they need to live in society and fulfill their values. Those people should abort. And since most people cannot guarantee their children will be born healthy, are not trained to raise children, and have lifestyles which would prevent them from giving their children the highest attainable standard of love, support and protection, abortion should be the default.
Pro-choice advocates may argue that the issue of child abuse is already dealt with in our societies. But the issue of child abuse is only one small part of breaking these rights. It is fair to say that very few children receive the highest attainable standard of health or the highest attainable standard of love, support and protection, and yet most children are not illegally abused. Most of the abuse and neglect dealt to them is perfectly legal and not dealt with at all; in fact, we often praise the abuse by calling it other names (discipline, correction, sexual purity, college-oriented parenting, permissive parenting, “juggling home and work,” adoption, etc). Furthermore, mothers can’t be sued for wrongfully giving birth to a compromised child, only doctors who are said to not have given enough information for the woman to make an informed decision (regardless of the basis for that decision), so the right to health of the newborn is not even dealt with at all.
The pro-abortion position is the only way to reconcile the rights of children with the realities of sex and pregnancy.
The rights of children and the imposition of harm are two strong concepts to base a position on, much stronger than those of the two other positions. But I think the pro-abortion position also has the others beat on their own ground. If the pro-choice side has the rights of pregnant women to fight for, we fight for the rights of all people, for everyone was once a child. If the anti-abortion argument has the “ew” argument, we have their “ew”s and every other “ew” that has ever existed and will ever exist, including every flesh-eating bacteria, every child dying of starvation, etc.