And, as a community, I think we would say we have a collective duty to provide at least a certain level of care to the sick, the elderly, the dependent, etc, and that they have a corresponding right to expect that.
That depends on a whole lot of things including community resources; time, money and values. A lot of societies certainly don't take that approach.
Any ethical duty is subject to your ability to perform it. If it is impossible for me to do X, it is not unethical for me not to do X.
That’s why I said that the the community has a duty to provide “at least a certain level of care to the sick”. What that level is depends on the resources, capacity, etc of the community in question. But I think all communities consider that they have some
obligation in this regard. It arises out of the golden rule (“treat others as you would wish them to treat you”) which I think is a fairly universal ethic.
But depending on your relationship to the sick person, I think we would still say that it might be highly unethical of you to fail to care for them to the point where they die.
Again, depends on the context. If you need to work to survive and therefore cannot care for them 24/7 and your society does not provide care for the sick, and as a result, they die, no one has necessarily acted unethically.
My response is the same as above. Plus, I’d say that in the abortion context this point doesn’t get you very far. It would support an argument that a women who needs an abortion in order to survive herself acts ethically in having an abortion, but such cases are rare, and certainly do not account for many of the abortions actually performed. It would, in fact, only support an abortion for someone who needed it to survive in circumstances which would also support the abandonment to death of sick dependent – i.e., fairly extreme circumstances.
Similarly, a newborn baby is no longer physically connected to its mother, but is totally dependent on her (or on a substitute) for survival and, if neglected, will certainly die. If it would have been ethical to abort the child before birth on the basis of its dependence, is it equally ethical to neglect the child after birth, to the point where it dies? If not, why not?
Not on the basis of dependence then, on the basis that her body belongs to her before the baby. She has the right to remove the baby because he or she is in her body. if the consequence is that they die as a result, so be it. If medical advancements have meant they will survive, so be it. I am exploring this idea that if her body belongs to her, not the baby (which I believe is correct), then it logically follows that she then has the right to remove the baby from her body because her body belongs to her first, not the baby. The question is, is she responsible for the baby's death? Yes. Is it wrong? I don't know. If we agree her body belongs to her, than it seems the answer would be no...
I accept, of course, that a woman has a right to the control of her body (as does a man, though that’s not so relevant to the question of abortion).
We have to ask, though, whether this right is absolute, even to the point where it can be asserted at the expense of the life of another?
In other circumstances, we don’t regard the right to control of one’s own body as absolute. Somebody who is charged with a crime can be arrested and imprisoned, for example, and this is seems to me a greater restriction on control of one’s own body than being required to continue a pregnancy. (Note that this can be done when someone is charged, and before conviction, so the person could be wholly innocent of any crime.) Someone who enters the country without the proper visa can be arrested and detained indefinitely, even though they haven’t even been charged
with any crime. Someone who is judged to be a danger to themselves or others by reason of mental illness can be detained involuntarily.
And that’s just looking at detention as an example of an aggressive restriction on the right to control one’s own body. These examples could probably be multiplied.
So, yes, as a society, we do recognise the ownership and control of one’s own body. But we certainly don’t see it as an absolute, and there are many circumstances in which we restrict it, even where this has nothing to do with respecting the life of another. It’s not clear, then, that we must not restrict it in the matter of abortion.
This argument in a way comes back to the question of whether a mother has a responsibility to her child. I would ask, does a father have a responsibility to care for their child? There are a lot of absent fathers at birth, if the mother neglects the child and it dies, is she more responsible than the father? Why?
As regards the neglect of a living child, obviously they are both responsible. For obvious reasons the question of abortion is slightly different. If we take the view that the right to control one’s own body does not allow one to abort a baby, this is obviously going to impact on women in a way that it doesn’t on men. Are we therefore demanding of women something that we don’t demand of men? Is that fair?
I think the answer is that it‘s inevitable, so it can’t be unfair. And it’s a disparity of treatment that cuts both ways. To the extent that abortion is
permitted, it is the mother, and not the father, who has the ultimate say in whether an abortion will take place. So, she bears a greater burden where abortion is not permitted, but has greater control where it is. The bottom line, I think, is that because she is a woman she is faced with an ethical question which will never directly face a man. It’s one of the ways in which the experience of being a woman differs from the experience of being a man. And that difference will persist whether abortion is permitted in all circumstances, in some circumstances or in none at all.
2nd argument: Life Cycle
A 3 month- old fetus is not the same as a fully matured baby. We in our society have a standard of life, a plant is not worth as much as an ant is not worth as much as a dog, a dog as a human etc. Therefore, a fetus is not of the same value as a human baby based on this measure of life. The difference is, the fetus can become a human, so it will change from one 'value' to another. Does this give it greater life value?
I’ll come back to this one in a separate post, if I may.