Abortion - Fiddling with violinists
Helen Pringle, a Politics and International Relations lecturer from the University of New South Wales argues that personhood is no guarantee to protection by the law for the unborn.
She quotes the infamous example by philospher Judith Thomson
Thomson asks you to imagine that you are kidnapped one night, and you wake up in hospital to find yourself plugged into the body of a famous violinist suffering a serious kidney ailment. The doctors apologise profusely, blaming the Society of Music Lovers for the kidnapping. While assuring you that you will remain plugged in for only nine months, the doctors remind you that the violinist has a right to life, and that his life can be maintained only by remaining plugged in to your circulatory system.
Thomsons analogy fails miserably to show that the legality killing of an unborn human child is irrespective of its personhood. Clearly, it falls short of a useful analogy for abortion in 3 areas.
1) The kidnapped victim is forced into situation against their will. Clearly then, the analogy can only apply in rape cases, not abortion as a whole.
2) There is a difference between action and inaction in law, even in regards to life and death. The violinist would die from the kidney ailment if you disconnected, not from a direct killing, which is what abortion is.
3) The analogy uses artificial situations, where if the violinist is left without artificial intervention, they would die. The baby, left to nature would continue to be fine.
Helen goes on to provide further analogies
Consider for example cases of tissue or organ donation. The widely accepted moral, legal and political principle here is that such donations may not be compelled. And this is so on the ground that to require a person to donate a part (even a renewable part) of their body to another person is a form of involuntary servitude, or indeed slavery. Not even parents may be legally forced to donate, say, a kidney to their dying child. Courts in the US have famously refused to force parents to donate even their (renewable) bone marrow or blood to save their children.
This widely accepted principle against bodily compulsion applies also to changes of mind. Let us say that a mother voluntarily promises one of her kidneys to her dying child, but then reneges (for whatever reason) on her promise. The child has no legal basis on which to force the mother to surrender the promised kidney.
In looking at this analogy, it still has several of the problems of the violinist analogy (Namely pts 2 and 3) and so even though it may apply to all abortions, it does not directly relate to the situation of whether it is moral to kill an unborn.
A few more misconceptions seem to be evident here.
1) The state already has forced 'tissue' donation. It can require blood tests, dna tests, and urine tests in some cases. So even IF the state does not require the donation of bone marrow in some situations, it certainly does not imply a blanket ban on forced tissue extraction
2) Personhood itself does not imply that you cannot be legally killed. Any capital punishment shows this to be the case. Clearly, to make the case that killing an unborn child should be anything but murder, you have to show why it is acceptable to kill a defenseless human that has done nothing illegal or immoral.
Helen mentions one final argument.
To require that a woman carry an unborn child to term is to demand something that is required of no other person in our society: the involuntary use of her body by another. And a law outlawing abortion would hence effectively require of women as a class what is required of no other class of persons in our society. For that reason, such a law would be a discriminatory imposition on the autonomy of women as a class. To outlaw abortion is to compel women, and women alone, to use their bodies in a certain way - in effect to be bodily conscripted to the state.
And yet she would happily force a class of persons (I.e. the unborn child) to be discriminated against by allowing them to be killed without just cause. No other class in society is subjected to this.
Sorry Helen, but just because you want it to be okay to kill a defenseless and innocent human being for your own convenience, does not make it right.