This post by Silverine made me think about the issue of abortion, particularly in terms of the 'right to live' or not of the foetus. Firstly, let us think about a 'right'. Only humans have rights granted to them. Notice also that they have to be 'granted'. So who grants these rights? Society. Ok, so which society? The aborigines of australia? The whites? The blacks? Each society has their own set of rules and rights that they guarantee. Fortunately, that does not complicate the present issue, because i'm only talking about the 'right to live', which every society guarantees, at any rate locally, to its own kind, if not to others too. Since this 'right to live' is then a part of every society, I shall broadly address the 'right to live' of human beings in general. As only human beings have rights, that means rights necessarily also have to do with conscious awareness of that right, because if i could give the chicken a right to pee on all people wearing white shirts, but it wouldn't, except by random chance, because it wouldn't understand the right, because animals don't 'understand', and understanding is a conscious process which only human beings are capable of. Ok, so let me repeat that key statement: for a right to be exercised, it has not only to be 'granted' by society, but also the creature to whom it is granted has to be 'aware' of it. I use the word 'aware' not in the sense of notified but in the sense of having a conscious understanding of what it means to the individual concerned. Now that we have a 'right' clearly defined, I shall alternately take the two stances of assigning a right to live for the foetus, and not, and see what rational consequences it has.
1) Statement: The foetus has the right to live.
Logical implications: The foetus has no conscious awareness of this right, just like the chicken doesn't, or the chicken's egg doesn't. Hence, if the foetus has the right to live, so does the chicken, and so does its egg, because there's no difference between the three from the point of view of the right to live which we humans may generously confer on them. They are none of them any more capable of exercising it. As a consequence, if the foetus has the right to live, all creatures have the right to live, including the ants in your food. This leads essentially to a jainist view. Note however that involuntary killing and killing for self-preservation are excluded because both of those are fall-outs of man as an animal.
2) The foetus does not have the right to live.
Logical implications: Thankfully, this does not have to trouble our conscience about killing chickens and eggs for breakfast. If the foetus can be killed, so can these. But, why stop at the foetus? Does a foetus get the right to live just because it changed its spacio-temporal location, i.e., it traveled through a canal, i.e., it is an infant? Logically, no. If a foetus has no right to live, then no more of a right does an infant have. The only difference between the two is spacio-temporal. Of course, this spatio-temporal shift results in a sensory dose to the granters. Meaning, you and I can see, touch, smell, and hear the infant. But a sensory dose is hardly a rational basis for deciding the right to live or not! An infant is no more aware of the right conferred upon it than a foetus. But what about children? What about adults? Where do we draw the line? In theory, I have already shown where the line is to be drawn. When an individual is 'aware' of the right to live, he has that right, by definition, provided it has been granted to him. Note that I use the word 'aware', because it is meaningless to expect, say the child, to 'state' its right to live. Language and its complications are immaterial here. So in theory that makes it simple. If there is a person who after 40 years of his life isn't aware of his right to live, he doesn't have that right, by definition. After all, the world we live in works just this way in the case of simpler rights. If someone isn't aware that he has a certain right, he is often denied it.
In practice, the theoretical logical implications of 1 are impossible to keep, because in practice, humans kill, and all too often for reasons other than self-preservation. But the goal is one that can be striven towards, even if not attained. It is possible for human beings to strive towards living with only that amount of killing of creatures as is necessary for self-preservation.
The problem with implementing the theoretical implications of 2 is that it is hard to define at what stage a child is 'aware' of his right to live. So the practical line has to be drawn somewhere. Probabilistically, one can be fairly certain that upto the age of 5 no child is aware of the right to live. While the foetus is like a chicken's egg, the child is like a trained parrot, and perhaps a little extra in other aspects. But for our purposes, they are the same. So, that makes infanticide quite permissible, and some extent of childicide too. Whether in practice people would start doing this extensively just because it is legally permitted is doubtful. So that got me thinking about to what extent people would do it if it were permitted. Because human beings have a notion of 'cruelty', which seems to them amplified if it is their own kind, the practice won't be very widespread. Of course, if there were to be a child grinding farm, it might be done a little more just as most of us would be reluctant to break the neck of a chicken and skin it ourselves, or stick a hot rod up a pig's arse till it screams and dies, but will gladly munch on chicken meat and pig meat. Anyways, in practice it seems like infanticide is practiced, more so in the developing countries. The problem is that its female foeticide. The problem is not that its a female, but that it upsets the sex ratio. So what? How does the sex ratio matter in a strictly logical sense? Is the human population going to go all the way to extinction from its present population of 6.6 billion because of female foeticide? No. So there's no long term worries of that kind. Hence, from the long term point of view, female foeticide is fine too. There are short-term worries though. A dwindled female population, leads to more frustrated males. That would directly have an effect on the crime rate. So, from the short-term point of view female foeticide is inadvisable. However, people seem to be doing it, in their blinkered look at self-preservation, because a man is a better work slave than a woman. They don't see the indirect consequences through crime, which works against that very self-preservation.
I've written this post because I'd like to encourage rational debate to see the flaws in these arguments.
Note: If you are simply disturbed and think what i've written is non-sense, there's no need to comment. I've taken that as the default anyways. If you wish, just put your name in for a head count, and go :p