Blues, Greens and abortion

Abor­tion is one of the most poli­ti­cally-charged de­bates in the world to­day—pos­si­bly the most poli­ti­cally charged, though that’s the sub­ject for an­other thread. It’s an ex­cel­lent way of ad­ver­tis­ing whether you are Green or Blue. As a scep­ti­cal athe­ist who thinks guns should be banned and gay mar­riage should be le­gal­ised, I nat­u­rally take a stance against abor­tion. It’s easy to see why: a woman’s free­dom is less im­por­tant than an­other hu­man’s right to live.

Wait… that sounds off.

I re­ally am an athe­ist, with good rea­sons to sup­port gun bans and gay mar­riage. But while pon­der­ing mat­ters to­day, I re­al­ised that my po­si­tion on abor­tion was a lot more shaky than it had pre­vi­ously seemed. I’m not sure one way or the other whether a mother’s right to make de­ci­sions that can change her life trumps the life of a hu­man em­bryo or fe­tus. On the one hand, a fe­tus isn’t quite a per­son. It has very lit­tle in­tel­li­gence or per­son­al­ity, and no ex­is­tence in­de­pen­dent of its mother, to the point where I am com­fortable us­ing the pro­noun “it” to de­scribe one. On the other hand, as lit­tle as it is, it still rep­re­sents a hu­man life, and I con­sider preser­va­tion of hu­man life a ter­mi­nal goal as op­posed to the in­ter­me­di­ate goal that is per­sonal free­dom. The rel­a­tive util­ities are stag­ger­ing: I wouldn’t al­low a mob of 100,000 to kill an­other hu­man no mat­ter how much they wanted to and even if their qual­ity of life was im­proved (up to a point). So: ver­ify my be­liefs, LessWrong.

If pos­si­ble, I’d like this thread to be not only a dis­cus­sion about abor­tion and the ban­ning or le­gal­i­sa­tion thereof, but also about why I didn’t no­tice this be­fore. For all my talk about ex­am­in­ing my be­liefs, I wasn’t do­ing very well. I only be­lieved ver­ify­ing my be­liefs was good; I wasn’t do­ing it on any lower level.

This post can’t go on the front page, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons: it’s highly in­flam­ma­tory, and chang­ing it so as not to re­fer to a par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple would re­sult in one of the posts I linked to above.