Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, July 3, 2017

Week four essay July 3, 2017

                How would Mill argue the issue of abortion? In Chapter V, he repeated his two maxims: first, “that the individual in not accountable to society for his (her) actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself or (herself)”. Second, “for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishments, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.”
                Abortions were performed during Mill’s time as they have been throughout history, but I didn’t find any specific mention by Mill about the issue. There is a diversity of opinions on whether he would or would not favor abortion and whether it could be supported through his views espoused in Utilitarianism or On Liberty. Both sides find elements in On Liberty that support their position. The Pro-Life side uses the harm principle to argue that the woman’s actions harm the fetus. The Pro-Choice side argues that it is the woman’s body and she is the person of interest and should not be accountable to society.
                Does the fetus have rights? If the fetus has the right to be born, does it also have the right not to be born. With rare exceptions, an abortion is contemplated to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; therefore, the fetus is not wanted for numerous reasons. The argument that the fetus would be adopted is baseless; there are far too few foster parents to meet the need.  Few people who argue that a woman should be made to carry the fetus to term would be willing to put up the $250,000 to raise the child to adulthood, so the child can look forward to a life of poverty and resentment. We might like to think otherwise, but the incidents of child abuse and poverty continue to grow here and around the world and that’s among those already entrusted to our care.  If we cannot do a good job with those, what makes us think we deserve to be entrusted with additional ones.  So, does a fetus have a right not to be born into such a family? Probably, he or she would choose not to, so do we, as a society, harm them.
                This is not an easy issue to discuss, because we like to believe that every being deserves a chance at life and we reflect on what we have experienced in our life and what we would have been denied if our mother’s abort us. For most of us, we have been blessed to have mothers who wanted us, but for those who have been abused, there is no blessing and for the rare individual who thrives there are many more who do not. For every Jesus who was born there was a Hitler and sadly both affected the lives of millions of people and are remembered for very different reasons.

I personally believe that men should be held accountable and responsible for their role in creating an unwanted pregnancy. For too long the burden has been placed almost exclusively on the woman. We are required to take a driving test before being allowed to drive, but there is no parent test required; perhaps, if young boys were properly educated they could make an informed decision on whether they were prepared to be a father. I think Mill would agree with me on that.


  1. I heard an argument against abortion recently that struck me as quite thought provoking. It went like this:
    Today’s argument in favor of abortion is very much like the argument for chattel slavery in the late 1800s. The mother argues that the baby is her property and she can do as she pleases with it. Never mind that the baby has its own brainwaves, its own heart beat and its DNA is different from hers. The slave owner said the slave was his property and he could do as he pleased with it. Never mind that the slave had its own brainwaves, its own heart beat and its DNA was different from the slave owner. The mother says the baby is not a human being, therefore it is not immoral to have an abortion and deprive it from growing up with its siblings. The salve owner said the slave was not a human being, therefore it was not immoral to separate family members by selling them. The mother says that abortion is a personal matter, internal only to her and the government should stay out of it. The slave owner said slavery was a personal matter, internal only to him and the government should stay out of it. So what’s the difference?

    What would Mill say? A lot has changed scientifically since Mill lived. What he would say then and what he would say now may be two different things. I’m sure that if Mill were living today, he would educate himself on all the new scientific developments concerning the unborn fetus, ultrasound and all.

  2. You've picked the issue that more than any other puts Mill's liberalism to the test, inasmuch as it pits the liberty of a living person against the future liberty of a possible person. It seems a natural extrapolation of Mill's feminism to think he'd bend in the direction of the woman whose actual life is on the line... and to think the advocate of a "quality distinction" for utilitarians would be much impressed by the consideration of what kind of life and liberty will be available to a great many children of poverty and indifference. But as always, I'm going to duck any resolute final statement on this issue. It's tough.