2. For that reason I reject your suggestion that the law is “the agreed social standard depicted by experts in moral adjudication”.
Two views, the system changes according to the view held within society, society revolves around what is or is not law.
I agree that what the law provides is often influenced by what we regard as moral or ethical. For example, whether, and to what extent, and in what ways, prostitution is criminalised obviously depends on how society feels about the moral issues raised by prostitution (and also depends on whether there is a consensus within socieity about this).
But I’m very wary of the reverse proposition that our moral views are influenced by the law. I acknowledge that it is to some extent true, but I don’t think it ought to be. (Obviously there is a moral view that one ought to obey the law as such, but that’s a separate point.) If, say, slavery is morally wrong, it shouldn’t become more acceptable morally merely because in a particular time and place it is lawful. To echo a similar point that I made to Sam
, this is “lazy ethics”; the assumption that something is ethical because it is familiar, or customary, or generally accepted. There is no good reason for this assumption.
4. Mother and child can certainly be separated “as entities”; as already pointed out, from conception the child is a distinct human individual; it is a separate entity.
It was not intended as a throwaway comment more as a point of view, and in terms of life, mother and child cannot be separated until birth. Who therefore do you attribute rights and if both, does the unborn child have the right to exist if only 49% destructive to the mother's health, at what level do you attribute the % quality of life a woman needs to raise a child given the demands placed on her . . .
There are lots of entities which cannot survive without other entities. The koala, for example, lives entirely on eucalypt leaves and cannot survive without them, whereas the eucalypt can get on pretty well without the koala. Does this mean, in your terms, that the eucalypt “naturally exists in higher status” than the koala?
I accept that the survival of the foetus is completely intertwined with its continuing connection to the mother. For me, though, that simply points to the inappropriateness of attempting to accord one of them a “higher status” than the other, and so the unhelpfulness of an ethical discourse which attempt to analyse the question in terms of rights. And I am only reinforced in this by your discussion of the issue in terms of a “1-1-1 spread of rights” and “50/50 responsibility”. These mathematical apportionments seem completely useless to me; they just underline the point that what is under discussion here cannot meaningfully be apportioned.
I suppose it comes down to this: in the sense that the law may allow a mother to abort, she has a “right” to abort. And, in the sense that you and I might agree that the law rightly
allows her to abort, that this is what the law should
provide, she has a “right” to abort. But that observation doesn’t help her at all in facing the very real moral question of whether or not she should have an abortion. The fact that she has the "right" merely shows that she has the moral dilemma; it does nothing to help her solve it.
One of the reasons, I think, that pro-life and pro-choice advocates so rarely engage in any productive discourse is that they are mired in a discourse of “rights” which is simply not apt to address the moral issues here.
The decision therefore remains that of the female, which provided she has not broken any law, cannot be said to have broken any moral code. But then the question is not whether abortion is moral or immoral, it is whether it is justifiable.
I’m not sure I follow you here. Where the OP asks whether abortion is justifiable, I understand that as meaning morally justifiable, or ethically justifiable.
There are conditions where society considers abortion immoral/unjustified, and they are contained within the law.
In so far as the law reflects society’s moral views, yes. But the question raised is not whether society considers abortion moral, but whether abortion is moral. Substitute “slavery” for “abortion” and you’ll see the distinction between the two questions. (And, no, I’m not comparing abortion to slavery.)
Or, if you consider the position of a young woman facing a difficult moral question, we don’t help her by telling her that society considers it ethical of her to abort (or, for that matter, not to abort). She needs to find some basis on which she
can make that decision; she cannot, ethically, simply abdicate her responsibility and follow the median social opinion.
A question, do you consider the Qld State government moral in their prosecution of the young couple included in the article provided by Hunter?
An excellent question but, again, different from the questions we have been considering up to now.
A few thoughts:
1. I don’t like the prosecution.
2. I am wary, though, of saying that she should not have been prosecuted. If the law says that X is a crime, that is (ideally) a law democratically adopted, and there is (ideally) a democratic procedure for changing the law if it is unjust or otherwise unacceptable – a procedure which involves open and public identification and discussion of the issues at stake, and accountable decision making. Those procedures are subverted if unelected public officials simply decide that they don’t like the law and are not going to enforce it.
3. I’d prefer, therefore, if this law were changed by Parliament rather than simply neglected by officials.
4. A more interesting question is, should
the law prohibit private self-administered abortions like this?
5. There is obviously a class of potentially harmful drugs which are regulated in that you can only take them on medical advice, and subject to medical controls. That’s what the prescription system is for. There are obvious good reasons of public policy for this system, and I don’t think that a drug should get a pass on this simply because it is abortifacient.
6. I gather, though, that this couple could have been charged under the laws which regulate prescription drugs generally, but weren’t. They were charged under laws which specifically prohibit self-administered abortions.
7. Again, you can think of public safety concerns which support such laws – abortion is quite a significant intervention into a healthy, functioning body - but, again, for the purposes of this discussion, leave those aside.
8. It seems to me that if you allow uncontrolled self-administered abortions, that is realistically only consistent with a legal regime which does not restrict abortion at all, in any way, at any stage (since a legal right to administer you own abortion can be used to circumvent any other legal controls on abortion).
9. For all that I think the law has a limited role to play here, advocating no legal restrictions at all on abortion is further than I am prepared to go. I think society does have an interest here which is entitled to some
weight in the eventual decision. Consequently I don’t favour a regime in which anyone can import and take an abortifacient drug with no legal controls.
10. I don’t think the issue would arise, though, if the woman in this case could have taken medical advice and had the drug prescribed in a controlled way, and that might be a better legal regime than either one in which she couldn’t legally get it at all, or one in which it was wholly uncontrolled.