Gut Check Part Two – Restating the Case

I am aware that a science fiction writer addressing any hotly-contested great issue of the day runs the risk of alienating the friendship and loyalty of otherwise kindhearted readers. While I would like nothing better than not to offend my dear patrons, certain debates are worth following to the end, without fear or favor, going only where the truth leads. I was a philosopher long before I was an entertainer, and so it is with an apology that I must continue to discuss an awkward topic. I will lose some readers, for which I am sorry. But most science fiction fans are made of sterner stuff, and do not fear ideas, even unpopular ideas. Indeed, the ability to see both sides of any issue, or to think the future might hold a different opinion than the current consensus, is one thing that makes speculative fiction speculative. Other genres cannot make this boast.

If you are not interested, or if you want to retain a good opinion of me, read no further.

While I am pleasedwith the kind interest and attention displayed by people who have taken the time to comment on the controversy of aborticide, I fear my point was lost amid the wording. None of the comments I received in return eased my suspicion that I was unclear.

Therefore let us clarify. The argument runs:

  1. As a matter of cause and effect, injury done to the unborn, if permanent, will continue until and after birth, appearing as an injury in the person who results. If you deliberately lop off the limb bubs of a fetus, the child who comes from this will be an amputee. (This is a matter of fact: we can take it as a given.)
  2. Parents have a duty to see to the wellbeing of their offspring. (If nothing else, laws against infanticide, child abuse and child neglect, paternity laws, and truancy laws sufficiently confirm civilized peoples place a burden of childrearing on parents.)
  3. To see to the wellbeing of one’s offspring includes not to injure them. (This follows by definition.)
  4. If this duty only applied to offspring after birth, it would be “not dereliction” for parents to injure an unborn deliberately. It would be acceptable under this duty, to intend to cause, and to cause, permanent damage and to be responsible for this injury in the resulting person: which is absurd.  If I deliberately lop off the limbs of a fetus, the child who comes from this will be an amputee, and in no sense of the word can I be said to be not responsible for the injuries.
  5. Therefore the duty applies before as well as after birth.
  6. Aborticide is a special case of prenatal injury, namely, intending to induce, and inducing sufficient damage in the unborn that he dies of his wounds or of the damage caused by the depravation of his nutriment or oxygen.
  7. Therefore aborticide is a dereliction of parental duty.

Logic dictates a duty begins to operate the moment I can take an act to see to the duty, likewise the moment when some failure to act is negligence of that duty. Otherwise the concept of duty means nothing. If I can legitimately get out of a debt due by Tuesday by destroying the subject matter of the debt on Monday, it is not really a debt.

If I vow fealty to the King of England, it does not excuse me of that fealty, indeed, it is the very definition of treason, if I kill the King an hour before his coronation: certainly it is no defense for me to claim the crown-prince being dead, I now never owed any duty to the King.

Our common sense reaction to a woman who will not give up cocaine during pregnancy is that she is a bad mother. No matter whether the unborn is legally a person or not, giving birth to a crack-addicted baby, when one could have given birth to a healthy one, is a dereliction of a mother’s duty of care.

If harming the unborn is dereliction of parental duty, harming it to the point of death is more so. Taking cocaine in sufficient amount to kill the baby would not somehow make one a mother who fulfilled her duty, or was legitimately excused from it.

To carry out a duty, in law, requires action in good faith at all times. This is an ancient principle in legal reasoning. To will the end is to will the means to the end. This is an ancient principle in moral reasoning. I do not think my argument comes to a result that is contrary to what common sense and common decency dictates. If we were talking about any other topic but aborticide, the logic would pass without comment.