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John Allen Paulos writes:
[C]onsider the following argument, which depends on a contrary-to-fact exaggeration to make its point. It's an argument that pro-choice proponents might use to undermine the belief of some abortion opponents in the absolute inviolability of the fetus's right to life.

Let's ask ourselves what position opponents of abortion — say on the Supreme Court or elsewhere — might take if two biological facts about the world were to change. The first assumption we'll make is that for some unknown reason — a strange new virus, a hole in the ozone layer, some food additive or poison — women throughout the world suddenly become pregnant with 10 to 20 fetuses at a time. The second assumption is that advances in neonatal technology make it possible for doctors to easily save some or all of these fetuses a few months after conception, but if they don't intervene at this time all the fetuses will die.

Abortion opponents who believe that all fetuses have an absolute right to life would surely opt for some intervention. Otherwise, all the fetuses would die.

Their choice would thus be either to adhere to their absolutist position and be overwhelmed by a population explosion of overwhelming magnitude or else act to save only one or a few of the fetuses. The latter choice would be tantamount to abortion since all the fetuses are viable. It would, nevertheless, take someone very, very doctrinaire to opt to have the birth rate increase, at least initially, by a factor of 10 to 20.

This is obviously not a knockdown, airtight argument (although delivered to the right audience, it might result in knock downs). As already noted, however, it's not the usual boilerplate and may induce induce fresh thinking in some people.

The argument's point is that if certain contingent biological facts were to change, then presumably even ardent abortion opponents would change their position, suggesting that their position is itself contingent and not absolute. After this is acknowledged, the haggling over the details might proceed.
Steve Sailer (guest) meinte am 12. Nov, 04:52:
I think Paulos has been hanging around the sophomore dorm at 3 am too much. Perhaps he can hash out some other Deep Thoughts chin-scratchers for us like:

If retarded women suddenly started having 20 babies every year, wouldn't he have to rethink his opposition to mandatory sterilitization?

If murderers suddenly started living to be a billion years old, wouldn't Paulos's opposition to the death penalty become cost ineffective? 
Walter McManus (guest) meinte am 12. Nov, 22:31:
Empty Argument
This is an interesting but empty argument. Babies do not come from outer space, viruses, swimming pools, doorknobs, or toilet seats. Babies come from fertilized eggs, and unless a woman is raped she must exercise some degree of choice to make it possible for her egg to be fertilized. With freedom to choose comes a responsibility to behave morally toward other human beings, including the new human being growing in her womb. 
abiola antwortete am 13. Nov, 15:30:
Nothing "Empty" About It
Let's put the dilemma in a slightly different form and see how you handle it.

It is a fact that the majority of fetuses which are conceived are spontaneously aborted before the women carrying them are even they've conceived. suppose a drug came onto the market which would ensure that, say, 10% of those spontaneously aborted fetuses could be carried to term: would you desire to have all women who were in a position to conceive be forced to take it? To sharpen the dilemma, let us also assume that the drug had severe and unpleasant side-effects, some of which were irreversible: would you maintain your insistence on all women taking it still? If you can answer "no" to either of these questions, then your posturing doesn't really set you apart from the rest of non-absolutist humanity, and all we're left arguing is questions of degree.

Oh, and by the way, if you really do believe zygotes are actual "human beings" even before they've developed brainstems, why do you think it acceptable for a woman to abort a fetus if she's been raped? I don't see why the fetus ... ahem, sorry, "human being" growing in her womb should suffer for the sins of his father. 
Paul N (guest) antwortete am 14. Nov, 22:15:
Obviously, spontaneous abortion is very different from actively killing.

I question the value of thought experiments/hypothetical situations such as these. You can always come up with a borderline case that supposedly ridicules the others' position no matter where a line of legality is drawn.

Both sides are paranoid of the slippery slope but I think to most people, abortion is a pragmatic issue, not an idealistic one. 
Walter McManus (guest) antwortete am 15. Dec, 17:24:
Emptier than Ever
A sensible person knows that human zygotes are human beings. While there is a chance that a human zygote may spontaneously abort (abiola says greater than 50%) there is zero chance that a human zygote could develop into a fox or a chicken. For that you need a fox zygote or a chicken zygote.

Now, about abiola's "sharpened dilemma." We have enough ethical dilemmas without fantasizing more. Paul N is right about this. Let's consider the case of rape. Some women do actually become pregnant as a result of rape. With great sadness I support a rape-exception. Sadness because of the evil of the act of rape itself and sadness because the exception permits the killing of an innocent life. 
Douglas Nast (guest) meinte am 5. Mar, 06:37:
Why debate?
You refer to opponents of abortion on the Supreme court, which points up a serious misunderstanding on your part. If its a vote of 9 elites testing their opposition or support, the court has lost all semblance of legitimacy. Of course that is precisely what Roe was, and indeed the court's reputation took a serious hit. The finest minds of the left have not found a valid Constitutional argument to support this decision in the intervening 35 years. The legal question concerns whether a generalized right to privacy exists whose borders are infinitely malleable based on the evolving whims of 9 members of a social elite. If this is true, then the people have no legislative rights whatsover, since every law can be construed as impacting someone's privacy. Your thought experiment takes us into the realm of public debate of morality, which is precisely what Roe has made moot. Still, to play along, those who view abortion as wrong almost always do so on supernatural grounds, not socio-politcal or scientific ones. As such they would not change their views to save the world in this fanciful hypothetical, since in their view God, not man, is the measure of all things. Indeed, why should they bother, since it and the rest of the universe end with an entropic whimper in a few scant billion years. 
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