Monday, January 08, 2007

Snippets from a libertarian debate on abortion

I am involved in a debate on abortion, from a libertarian perspective, on a libertarian email list. I thought I would present a couple snippets. The author gave me his permission, so here is an interesting bit on persistence and reason. I have added a link to the text, so that you can see the resources the author is describing.

I can give you a personal example of someone (me) changing his mind on the abortion issue.

I use to believe that the fetus became a person at some point between conception and birth and that therefore abortion was acceptable before that point of development was reached.. Doris Gordon challenged me to define where that point was and why. Over a number of years I kept responding to her and she kept defeating my argument based, of course, on reason and science. Finally I conceded that, rationally, there was no such point between conception and birth. A person is a unique being at the moment of conception and that its development proceeds, if allowed to, in a continuous, unbroken process that does not have a 'eureka' point at which its nature changes from a non-human into a human being.

Note that I used the terms 'reason' and 'science'. Most people do not reach their position on abortion through a rational process. It is almost always based on emotion (even when couched in scientific terms), often grounded in religious belief. That's why most people's position on abortion will not be changed by a rational argument. They can only be reached emotionally. I think that some of the recent advances in in utero imaging, which allows people to 'see' the fetus as a person (a baby), will do more to change minds on the abortion issue than the most carefully reasoned arguments in the world.

Jay Baker, Rockville MD