A Princeton University professor’s bizarre argument in favor of early-term abortions is causing a lot of head scratching this week.
Elizabeth Harman, a philosophy professor at the ivy league school, recently appeared in an episode of “Philosophy Time,” a YouTube show produced by “Spiderman” actor James Franco and his friend Eliot Michaelson.
Harman explained her position that early-stage abortions are morally neutral. Her flawed, circular reasoning was that it is not wrong to abort an unborn child because it does not yet have “moral status,” and moral status depends on the child’s future, and if the unborn child’s mother chooses to abort it, it does not have a future, according to the Free Beacon.
“So, a lot of people think, ‘Well it’s permissible to have an abortion, but something bad happens when the fetus dies.’ And I think if a fetus hasn’t ever been conscious, it hasn’t ever had any experiences, and we aborted it at that stage actually nothing morally bad happens. And this view might seem unattractive because it might seem that it dictates a cold attitude towards all early fetuses.
“But, what I think is actually among early fetuses there are two very different kinds of beings. So, James, when you were an early fetus, and Eliot, when you were an early fetus, all of us I think we already did have moral status then. But we had moral status in virtue of our futures. And future of fact that we were beginnings stages of persons. But some early fetuses will die in early pregnancy due to abortion or miscarriage. And in my view that is a very different kind of entity. That’s something that doesn’t have a future as a person and it doesn’t have moral status.”
Basically, her position boils down to whether the woman wants her baby. If she does not and chooses abortion, her baby’s life is not morally valuable, but if she does and chooses life, the baby becomes valuable.
Franco questioned Harmon about this, asking, “If a woman decides to have an abortion with an early fetus, just that act or that intention negates the ‘moral status’ of that early fetus just because if she goes out and has an abortion, it’s pretty certain that it’s not going to become a person?”
Harman replied that it is not the woman’s abortion choice that takes away the moral status of the unborn child, but she did not do a very good job of explaining why.
“I think the right way to look at it is that just given the current state of the fetus you know it’s not having any experiences,” she said. “There’s nothing about its current state that would make it a member of the moral community. It’s derivative of its future that it gets to have moral status. So it’s really the future and endows moral status on it and if we allow it to have this future and then we’re allowing it to be the kind of thing that now would have moral status so in aborting it I don’t think you’re depriving it of something that it independently has.”
Townhall’s Guy Benson pointed out that Franco and Michaelson did not seem convinced:
Both Michaelson and Franco quickly home in on the bizarre tautology on which this analysis rests: Aborted fetuses don’t have futures because they’re proactively killed. If they weren’t proactively killed, they would have futures, and thus would be imbued with moral status, based on Harman’s definition.
… A tautological merry go ’round. She’s effectively arguing that the ‘wantedness’ of a person, as decided by the feelings of her would-be mother, determines the humanity and moral status of that person.
One has to wonder how Harman would respond to people like Gianna Jessen, Melissa Ohden and Claire Culwell who were aborted by their mothers but survived. Or the hundreds of babies who now are alive after their mothers took abortion drugs and then changed their minds and had them reversed. These people are no less valuable just because they were not wanted.