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Some people argue that a 15 year old should be required by their parents to have an abortion because they also can't get an ear piercing or attend an R rated movie without their parents permission. Is that a good argument?

I agree with Prof. Stairs: even if we fix the argument's conflation of permissions and requirements, the analogies to piercings and 'R'-rated movies aren't close enough to abortion. We need to consider procedures that are of roughly equal invasiveness and seriousness. So imagine that the 15-year-old daughter needs a tonsillectomy but doesn't want one (maybe she's terrified of even routine surgery, or she's joined a religion that forbids undergoing surgery). Do her parents have the right to force the tonsillectomy on her against her will? I expect that many will answer yes . Now instead imagine that she's pregnant, and her parents judge that an abortion is in her best interests, but she doesn't want one (maybe she thinks having a baby at age 15 is in her best interests, or she's joined a religion that forbids abortion). Do her parents have the right to force the abortion on her against her will? I expect that many who answered yes to the first question will answer no to this question,...

If it is illegal for a rape victim to kill the rapist after the fact, then why should it be legal for the rape victim to kill a baby that is the product of the rape? It seems to me that abortion is "vigilante justice" in a sense. This is all assuming, of course, that the unborn child is considered a living, human being. If it isn't, then why is an unborn child not then considered "evidence" to be used by a third party? I do not think an unborn child should be considered anything in between a "living human" and an "object," but please take this distinction into consideration.

There are relevant differences between the rapist and the fetus conceived as a result of rape. If, after the fact, the rapist no longer poses a threat to the rape victim, then the victim's killing the rapist would be revenge rather than self-defense , and we normally take very different moral attitudes toward those two types of action. By contrast, the fetus still constitutes at least a burden, and perhaps also a threat, to the rape victim, and importantly a burden or threat for which the rape victim is in no way responsible. I think it's this absence of responsibility in the case of rape that makes the most important difference. Even if we assume that the fetus conceived by rape has as much intrinsic moral status as a normal five-year-old child, that wouldn't make the rape victim responsible for the fetus in a way that obligates her to allow the use of her body for its survival. There are many five-year-old children in the world for whose survival you and I aren't obligated to make highly...

Are sex selective abortions immoral? In countries where abortion is legal on demand, does it make any sense to try and prevent sex selective abortion if the legal system allows abortion for any reason?

You've asked two independent questions: (1) Are sex-selective abortions immoral ? (2) Does it make sense to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Now, 'make sense' in (2) can be construed at least two ways: (2a) Is it a practical policy to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? (2b) Is it morally consistent to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Question (2a) is a largely empirical question having to do with how effective such a policy would be versus the practical costs of enforcing it. Question (2b) is a philosophical question. One could consistently give different answers to (2a) and (2b). As for (2b), I think that any legal system that regards abortion as lawful is committed to regarding abortion as not seriously immoral , because I take it to be one of the law's essential functions to outlaw seriously immoral things if there are any. But I also think that if ...

"My body, my choice" is well known slogan from those who oppose laws that limit a woman's right to an abortion. Yet, the idea that a woman has a right to do what she wants to her body seems to have disturbing consequences. If a woman drinks too much alcohol or takes too many drugs then her baby will suffer the consequences. That child will then suffer many challenges in life because of his mothers supposed right to do what she wants with her body. Yet when I point this out to people they get angry and insist that I want to limit women's rights. In fact it makes me angry that anyone would disagree with the idea that a woman shouldn't be morally and legally responsible for the incalculable harm she can do to her baby by poisoning her fetus. I can grant that there are exceptions such as prescription medications but otherwise isn't the idea that women can't be held responsible for doing damage to a fetus that will then suffer after being born just a very extreme position even if its a popular belief? And I...

I'm no lawyer, but I believe that the courts in some U.S. jurisdictions allow a child to sue its mother for lasting harm she caused the child while it was in utero . (Here I'm assuming that the child is identical to something that was once in utero , an assumption not everyone will grant.) I don't know whether the plaintiff has ever prevailed in such a lawsuit. In any case, if someone can be assigned civil liability for causing such harm, then it's not a huge leap to hold her morally responsible for it as well. My sense as a non-expert is that the courts are still struggling with this legal issue, so it's an important time for philosophers to weigh in on the issue and thereby perhaps help the courts decide it wisely and justly.

For me the answer to the question of whether abortion is right or wrong depends on the ontological status of the fetus. Is a fetus the kind of being that has a right to live or is it not? I don't know. How on earth can I know that? If I knew then I wouldn't be an agnostic on this issue. Most people, if I am not mistaken, take it for granted that a new born baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live. So what reason is there to think that a young baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live? What about an older baby or an adult...if we can stretch this question to its limits.

Your questions raise a host of difficult issues. What gives anything a right to life? In other words, what in general (if anything) about an individual makes it morally wrong for others to end its life? I've never seen a satisfying answer to that basic question. Does an individual's right to life inhere in the individual, or does it instead depend on the individual's relations to others? Prof. Manter referred to "all the relational complexities that being persons entails." If by "persons" she meant "beings with a right to life" and if by "entails" she meant some kind of logical implication (and it's possible she meant neither), then she's implying that a right to life doesn't inhere in the individual. I'm not sure I'd accept that consequence. Suppose you become a hermit and totally disconnect because you're tired of other people. If you had a right to life before you chose total isolation, then I'd say you still have it, and it would be at least presumptively wrong for any of us to...