CNN reported a study this week that found that after the Dobbs decision correcting Roe v. Wade that had wrongly held that there was a constitutional right to abortion, 32,260 fewer abortions took place from July to December 2022 compared to the average monthly number of abortions before Dobbs. Roe’s reversal, therefore, meant roughly 5,377 fewer abortions a month. 5,377 fewer abortions means the same number of unborn children a month not having their lives terminated, which in turn means 32,260 living children that would not be alive otherwise. I recognize that there are many way that number could be inexact, for example, deaths during childbirth or other post birth fatalities, so let’s settle on 32,000.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Is there a valid, intellectually honest argument that 32,000 living human beings who would not be alive were Roe still in place constitutes anything but an ethical result?
I don’t know what it would be, though CNN seemed to begin from the premise that the reduction in abortions is a bad thing. Abortion is a bright line breach of two of the major ethical analysis systems, absolutism and reciprocity. It can only be justified by some version of utilitarianism, and when balancing in that ethical system, justifying the sacrifice of 32,000 innocent lives requires a massive, undeniable and society-wide benefit.
I don’t see it.
25 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: 32,260 Babies”
Hard to tell without more data, like how much impact those additional children will now have on society.
That said, I think most humans born alive would prefer to have been born alive. The pro-choice movement can twist and turn and justify it anyway they want, but the fact is that 32,000 lost lives by any other means would be something most of them would be horrified at. If a natural disaster took the lives of 32,000 children, the same people would be all up in arms about funding and preparedness and everything else. If a war resulted in the deaths of 32,000 children they would be pointing to the government and those politically opposed to them and saying that those children’s blood was on their hands. God forbid 32,000 children died from shootings, or you’ll really be hearing about it. But 32,000 children living who would otherwise be medical waste, that’s even worse than all of those things.
> Is there a valid, intellectually honest argument that 32,000 living human beings who would not be alive were Roe still in place constitutes anything but an ethical result?
To play devil’s advocate, the problem here is that it is a consequentialist argument. A perfectly good result and foreseeable once more abortion restrictions were in place, so there is a valid argument to be made, but as presented it tries to justify the act based on the result.
But, isn’t all public policy ultimately consequential? “Perfectly good result and foreseeable” almost sounds like the gold standard for determining public policy; consequentialism is a rationalization only when actions are judged unduly harshly or favorably based on unforeseen or unforeseeable consequences.
You’ll have to explain that a bit more clearly. It’s not a consequentialist argument at all: obviously eliminating a right to abortion would result in some reduction in abortions, and the same question could be asked without specific. The number only provides a concrete perspective. And you haven’t addressed the question!
I’m back at the computer so I can write it down better.
Final result: 32,000 living human beings who would not be alive.
According to the original argument this is an uncontroversial good. I’ll grant that (and personally agree), and this is the one and only metric that we are using to evaluate the goodness of the action. The problem with this is that prohibiting all contraceptives would most likely lead to a similar or larger increase in humans being alive as a consequence of this action. Let’s assume this is true for the sake of the argument.
I say that this evaluating both actions just based on the number of new humans being alive is a form of consequentialism. And I argue that ending abortion is morally different from forbidding most contraceptives (aside 1: let’s skip Plan B to avoid a rabbit hole… aside 2: yes, I’m catholic and disagree with the official position of the church, sue me). The unalloyed good of ending abortion is that it *saves* the lives of 32,000 humans who existed and were killed. This is a deliberate act of destruction, while in the case of contraceptives those are lives that come ex-nihilo and while I’ll argue they are a positive I make a distinction between not maximizing lives and actively eliminating them.
Hopefully this clears out what is the one weakness I see in the argument and provides a way to fortify against it.
What I find weak about the consequentialism criticism is that consequence obtained was one of the consequences that was intended.
Consequentialism as a rationalization is more along the lines of “my bad act had good results, so it’s okay.”
That is not what we have here.
Thanks for clarifying your point, Alex. But banning contraceptives should be irrelevant to this issue. The ethical good is not killing human beings who already exist; maximizing the number of human beings born generally isn’t the objective of limiting abortion, and in fact isn’t an ethical goal at all. If the latter were the ethical objective, then the ridiculous “Handmaiden’s Tale” analogies used to falsely frame Dobbs as a means of keeping women barefoot and pregnant would be valid. They aren’t.
I wasn’t considering the Catholic Church-style condemnation of birth control at all: I assumed Western civilization has progressed ethically and intellectually to the point that the idea is seen as the Medieval ignorance it was. The focus was intended to be on the claim–widespread and reflected in the CNN report—that a reduction in abortions is self-evidently a tragedy, a disaster, a result to be condemned, because the more abortions the better. Bringing the radical banning of contraceptives proposals into the discussion badly clouds the waters.
I want to hear an abortion advocate explain why 32,000 living children who would otherwise have been dead fetuses is an undesirable result. I don’t think it can be done without trying to make the impossible argument that the living children now were not human beings when their lives would have been ended. That’s the only argument there is that doesn’t slide into infanticide to “save the planet.”
Agreed and agreed. Just trying to find ways to criticize the argument. Iron sharpens iron, etc. And I think I’ve run out of straws to grasp.
No one can predict whether or not 32,000 additional people will increase good or increase bad in the world. No one. There’s no way to judge the result on the future.
There is 100% certainty however that 32,000 additional people are NOT 32,000 killed babies.
This is pretty 100% easy to judge.
I think this is a matter of perspective.
It’s not that the result is ethical, but that each life saved is a step further away from the unethical end of the scale towards neutral.
Perhaps it could be argued the resources required to being these children to functioning adults is too great–but if the crowd making this point also believes ‘no human is illegial’, they presumably believe society is well equipped to integrate these souls.
An excellent point, and one I will remember. Thanks!
As far as the left is concerned, children, like anyone and anything else, are just pawns. They are preserved or expended depending on what they do for the cause. In this case, preserving the right to abortion above all other rights and expanding it into the third trimester and even up to the moment of birth is away to guarantee votes from single women whose numbers are already off the charts with the Democratic Party. It’s part of the worship of self that has become the Democratic Party’s undergirding philosophy.
Single women don’t give a damn about anything except themselves, and they’re being encouraged not to give a damn about anything except themselves. That’s logical when you consider that they are brought up on a steady diet of perfect Disney princesses, self empowerment, and the idea that they are not only entitled to everything, but entitled to the best of everything, just for showing up. Why shouldn’t they think that they are entitled to carry on like cheap Las Vegas or New Orleans whores on a busy weekend and avoid even the smallest consequence? Responsibility? What’s that? How dare anyone suggest that any woman actually take responsibility for her own actions? If she had to do that then she might become one of those women who actually has to run a household and budget and make choices and actually put someone else ahead of herself sometimes. One more guaranteed Democratic vote out the window.
As for children, as I said, the Democratic Party only sees children as valuable when it can exploit them. There have to be some, after all, without them there would not be a next generation to indoctrinate. However, there are always far more than are needed. So, to sacrifice a few here and there to advance the cause is no big deal. It pays to have a few children, or more than a few, die in a natural disaster or an outbreak when the other party is in power. That way, you can point to everything the other party did wrong, then point to the dead children, and say that their blood is on the other party’s hands. It pays to have a large number of children killed or displaced in a war, whether it be one of the left supports, or one of the left opposes. If it’s one of the left supports, they can say that more money and more resources need to be thrown into this war to prevent more of this. If it’s one they oppose, they can point and say oh how horrible, this has to stop. It pays to have children perish or suffer while trying to cross our border, often not something they wanted to do in the first place, then they can point and say that we are heartless and it needs to be even easier to get into this country. It really pays when a lot of children die in a mass shooting, because then they can beat everyone else over the head with it and say that if you own a gun or are in favor of lawful gun ownership those children’s blood is on your hands. They can also say that something needs to be done, push more bad laws through, and try to move the society further and further towards being helpless at the mercy of government. Dead children are actually a very valuable commodity for the left.
However, talk about children dead in the womb, and suddenly they don’t see children at all. They’re just globs of tissue that become medical waste, and if you see it differently, you must be an oppressor who hates women and sees them as nothing more than your domestic slaves and brood mares. How dare you think about taking a promising executive or lawyer or other professional out of the workforce and making her delay her career for 3 or 4 years while she deals with raising a child, especially one she has second thoughts about having in the first place? How dare you force a rape victim to carry her attacker’s child? How dare you turn your back on a 12 year old abused by her creepy uncle and now carrying a child long before she’s ready to do so? How dare you force a woman suffering from cancer of the womb carry the child there to term and risk death?
Somehow innocent children aren’t so innocent when they are inconvenient. Somehow precious children aren’t terribly precious when they upset their mother’s plans. Somehow individual children lose their individuality when unborn, or I should say do not receive their individuality until they are born, despite the fact that they already have their own DNA code but no one else has in the womb.
It’s a very ugly truth, and it’s a truth that is not comfortable to think about. It should not be comfortable to think about. It should never be comfortable thinking about deciding who lives and who dies. It should never be comfortable to wonder if you are playing God. It should never be comfortable treating people like they are not people or like they count less than other people. It should not be comfortable picking out the team for a “forlorn hope” mission that is necessary, but almost guaranteed to kill some of them. It should not be comfortable sending that rescue boat out into the storm from whence it may not return. It should not be comfortable deciding to throw your resources into evacuating your main army while a smaller garrison is left to die at the enemy’s hands or be hauled off into a captivity worse than death. And it should definitely not be comfortable deciding that this person did something so awful that his own life is forfeit for it. If this is the case, how comfortable should it be deciding that the child in your womb, which did not get there by accident, will never have a chance at life? Somehow the left has managed to divorce the last from all the rest.
We here endless talk from the left about safe spaces now. We hear about how our neighborhoods should be safe, our schools should be safe, every place should be a safe place for all kinds of people, especially children. It doesn’t seem to strike them as even a little bit ironic that the safest place of all for a child, in the womb, is the one place that is completely unsafe.
It’s like I said in another post talking about comparing some of the more extreme wokeness to Nazism – this is the kind of thing nobody wants to talk about. This is the kind of thing that nobody wants to think about. This is the kind of thing that everyone wishes would just go away. This is the kind of thing we would just as soon drown in a glass of wine or self-medicate away with marijuana or some other drug, or forget with yet another distraction on our phone or computer. The scary part is that the left with just as soon let us do just that. Fill your glass again, take another hit, turn to yet another one of the many channels available out there, but don’t think about this, at least not until we tell you you should. Other issues, though? Put down that glass, put your phone back in your pocket, close your laptop, these are things that you can’t ignore and it need to get dealt with right now, and if you don’t join in, then you’re a bad person.
I know it’s not even 7:00 a.m. as I write these words, and they’re pretty heavy reading while you wait for your coffee to kick in. However, the other side wouldn’t let you drink your coffee, eat your breakfast, or do almost anything in peace 3 years ago. I don’t think asking you to read and think on a few things between sips of overpriced coffee and bites of a bagel, before everything gets swallowed up in the work day, is that much of an imposition.
Well put Steve.
Outstanding comment Steve-O-in-NJ! This is a reasonably logical thought extension of one of my blog posts, Imagine If You Will…. I would like to post it as a guest post on my blog but I won’t do so without your permission.
Ty. And go right ahead, I’m always glad to reach out farther.
I’m also going to include a segment of your comment at the top of the thread which is also relevant.
Guest Post: The Political Exploitation of Children
Let me know if there is something I need to fix.
I finally got around to adding your blog to the Ethics Alarms links. I’m sorry it took so long.
Note to self: on a regular basis, be sure to ask how Steve-O-in-NJ really feels.
Very provocative, sir…and very outstanding! I would love to see some of our left-leaning friends offer responses to that.
Probably just a lot of shrieking.
There’s an assumption being made around this tipic that’s without evidence. 32,260 fewer abortions does not equal 32,260 more human births. It’s a reasonable assumption that at least some of that change comes from more responsible behavior regarding prophylactic birth control (possible even some abstinence?). That’s at least one ethical outcome.
Absolutely, but the Quiz accepts the premise of the CNN spin on the report, which links the fewer abortions to Dobbs.