A Socratic dialogue on abortion
P: Is there a fundamental right to abortion?
Q: Of course.
P: So any woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy for any reason?
P: Well, suppose the preborn being -- or perhaps we might say potential human -- experiences pain during the termination process?
Q: As the, er, being is not viable, how can it experience pain?
P: If there are physiological studies that show that the being's reactions are consistent with a viable infant's feeling of pain, would that be relevant?
Q: Well, then you are only talking about what MIGHT be.
P: So if there is a possibility that the being in the womb experiences pain during abortion, that possibility is of no relevance to society?
Q: Not to society, but that consideration might affect a woman's personal decision.
P: None of society's business?
P: So if a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy for trivial or shallow reasons, that is her affair.
P: In many cases, the decision for abortion is economically based, as when the family of a young woman presses her to abort so that she can go on to an economically prosperous life, or when a woman aborts the being in her womb because she has enough children and doesn't want one more mouth to feed. Is that correct?
Q: Economic issues are plainly a driving force behind abortion.
P: Also, many women resent the idea that a male-dominated society may control a woman's right to reproduce. So-called reproductive rights.
Q: Yes, very true.
P: What is it that she doesn't want reproduced?
Q: Another human, but that's only after birth. Before birth, the quality of humanity doesn't exist.
P: So you say. Others would say, before the first trimester. And there are yet other ideas. So there is little agreement about when the being in the womb becomes a bona fide human being. Anyway, wouldn't you agree that "reproduce" means reproduce oneself?
Q: Well, the child is not a clone. The father's genes contribute.
P: So she is reproducing herself and her sex partner.
Q: I suppose.
P: And that reproduction is in progress in the womb. So is she not destroying a reproduction of herself?
Q: You are just playing word games.
P: Well, you do agree that a woman has a right to terminate a pregnancy for economic reasons.
P: So then, a woman -- perhaps in consultation with her partner -- has a right to terminate a pregnancy based on the sex, or gender, of the being in the womb.
Q: I don't quite follow.
P: She has a right to terminate a pregnancy based on sex preference.
Q: It's a trivial reason, but I suppose it is none of society's business.
P: Now suppose a large number of women preferentially abort females? Would that be acceptable?
Q: It doesn't sound right, but fortunately that isn't the case.
P: What do you think feminists would think of such a practice?
Q: They would probably try to outlaw it.
P: So then society does have an interest in maintaining the life of a being in the womb?
Q: Your scenario is not the case.
P: You are wrong; it is a fact. In India, couples routinely terminate females in the womb for socioeconomic reasons. Further, there is a shortage of brides there, which is the consequence of this practice. India's laws against revealing the sex of the being in the womb have proved ineffective.
Q: Well, point. But this isn't India.
P: The original question was, Is there a FUNDAMENTAL right to abortion?
Q: Ah, I see what you mean. If we must go by cases, there isn't a fundamental, all-encompassing right.
P: So society is permitted to take an interest in the welfare of the being in the womb.
Q: I would say you have made a good case. But, unfortunately for you, most people think in memes, and won't follow philosophical arguments.