I said: "Pregnancies in which the fetus is likely to live a full normal human lifespan ought to be compulsory because the resultant human lifespan is more valuable than the harm done to the mother even in cases of rape and incest."
(Note: I answer JoT's replies out of order so as not to repeat myself.)
"Here is my illegitimate response. Your basic point is that a baby gains more than by being born than a woman loses by going to term…"
My intent was for my basic point to be that the future of the average fetus is sufficiently valuable thing that it ought to be protected (sorry if I was unclear).
JoT response continues with:
"… and that the government should therefore craft laws that force women to carry their babies to term. Why not take the next logical step and force women to become pregnant? After all, a woman's got to be pretty selfish not to bring a new life into the world when she has the chance to do so, which is once every year or two."
That is a fair question. The response is that there is a difference between 1) protecting something valuable and 2) not creating additional valuable things. I believe that we ought to protect our national parks—but I do not believe we are obligated to create an (infinite?) number of new parks. Your next logical step follows only if we ignore this distinction.
"My second legitimate response to your conclusion is that we don't grant the fetus the legal status of a person. Your argument is based on treating the unborn child as a person whose interests and rights are to be weighed against those of the mother… (In philosophy, we call this begging the question.)"
I do not beg the question. At no point do I claim that the fetus is a person. In fact, I think it is not. At no point do I claim that the fetus has rights. In fact, I think it has none. My sole claim is that the fetus's future is valuable. This future is not a person. This future has no rights. The question is: Is the valuable future (of most fetuses) worth protecting? This is similar to the question "Is the future of Yellowstone as an unpolluted natural park worth protecting?" I believe that the valuable future of both Yellowstone and most fetuses are worth protecting. (We need not protect the future of fetuses that don't possess valuable futures—such as those that are anacephalic.)
"My first legitimate response to your conclusion is that the government doesn't generally force one individual to do what is best for another even if the algebra of benefit is for the better. For example, the government doesn't force everyone to be an organ donor. It doesn't force childless couples (or couples with children) to adopt parentless children."
Here you are begging the question (for me?). There are not two individuals involved. There is only one—the mother. Thus abortion is disanalogous to both organ donation and adoption.
The crucial question is "Who (if anyone) ought to protect the valuable futures of fetuses?" In America it is legal to deface valuable works of art—if you own them. In the case of the fetus there seems to be (at least) three possible candidates for ownership—the mother and father; only the mother; or the human into which the fetus will grow. The mother and father each provide 50% of the genetic material. Thus they could be considered co-owners of the resultant valuable future. The mother 'possesses' the fetus and thus could be considered the sole owner. But it seems to me that the human which eventually lives this future out is the future's owner—despite the fact that this human doesn't exist yet. I believe that protecting fetuses is similar to protecting a trust fund for unborn grandchildren. If I set up a trust fund for my (potential) grandchildren and you steal the money you are not robbing me—you are robbing my grandchildren of their inheritance. I don't own the money anymore—my grandchildren do (even though they don't exist.) Even if you find this illustration implausible America's policy on abortion is screwed up because it grants sole ownership of the fetus's future to the mother rather than to both parents. Possession is not the same as ownership anywhere else in the law and it shouldn't be with regard to abortion.
Other responses to "Courts and Majorities"