The Right Coast

March 14, 2004
The A-word
By Tom Smith

I know people are sick of abortion, and I don't blame them. It always leads to unpleasant arguments, at best.

I understand that it is a religious or otherwise purely ethical view that it is wrong to kill a little ball of cells smaller than a grain of rice. But there is something deeply wrong with killing a full or nearly full-term baby in a horribly inhumane way just to salve our own less than fully formed consciences. I gather that is what "partial birth abortion" is. It would be much more humane to deliver the baby and then kill it with an injection of morphine or whatever, to "put it to sleep" as we do with old or injured animals, rather than cut it apart.

At least part of the reason for doing it the hard way (for the baby) is presumably that it qualifies, for legal, not medical or moral reasons, as an abortion rather than a murder. Of course, I understand it is easier on the mother, presumably, to have the baby come out in crushed pieces rather than as a whole. But surely avoiding the suffering of the infant is worth something. Animal loving Americans would be outraged at the prospects of dogs and cats being cut into pieces in order to avoid even significant human pain and inconvenience, as they should be. We should take the suffering of animals seriously. Yet because it is a "choice," it is somehow OK to do anything to a baby, as long as it is partly enclosed by its mother's body.

People who think it is morally acceptable to kill infants who could survive outside the womb, should at least be humane about it, and argue for humane infanticide, rather than abortion of full term infants. But of course they won't, because that would be politically unacceptable. We would do that much for our pets. The fact that the abortion rights crowd doesn't acknowledge the ethical interest in avoiding suffering by the baby or "fetus" shows just how depraved they have become. It gets even weirder when you realize that what abortion rights is largely about is lowering the costs (including the expected cost of various risk exposures) of sexual gratification. But if abortion is about making sexual pleasure more available, then the suffering of other humans, or nearly humans, further down the line, should be taken into account. But my impression is that many abortion proponents don't even rise to the undistinguished moral level of utilitarianism.