Neither death nor reason

I’ll try to make this short. It’s a topical personal opinion, and it’s getting a writeup because it’s an opinion I have. As I explained previously, the core project of asemic horizon and General Axiology is in a kind of grave danger from which I don’t know how to rescue it. So this has nothing to do with that. I happen to have a platform, and the thing happens to be in the cultural zeitgeist with enough of an intensity that I haven’t been able not to have an opinion.

To the point: during pregnancy, a morula evolves to the point where it’s something we call a baby. This conceals a lot of the change that happens following childbirth — babies are barely human in their first three or four months; only after that they’ll appear to even notice the presence of their caregivers. It’s been remarked that human pregnancy should, for newborns’ sake, take a full trimester longer, but our huge heads prevent this. At any rate: there’s no magical line in childbirth that brackets off the development of a proto-human into something possessing reasonable standards of personhood. It’s just at some point pushing a finger into the newborn’s soft skull to kill him seems crass and imoral.

By the same token: some time spent on a NICU will affect you profoundly regarding the humanity of second-trimester babies. Because childbirth has come for them even sooner than usual, medicine is enlisted to fight for their lives — and much more often than not, these kids go on to thrive.

What these facts tell us is that there’s a very thick distinction between humanity and personhood. “Viability”, as concocted by the hard pro-choice adherents, is much closer to personhood, but actually meaningless: a 2-year old child can easily die if left unassisted in a farm, and testimonies on solitary confinement tell us that humans are generally nearly inviable unless surrounded by humans.

That said: there’s a clear need — because society needs standards in order to heal — to draw a line before which abortion has no major moral consequence. I’d set this standard at neurulation, after which there’s too much rhyme and reason to an embryo to be considered a mere mass of cells. But I think about the law in a very different way, too.

I think abortion should be outlawed, but that prosecutors and juries should be relatively lax about it. This follows from a more generic and quite nonstandard philosophy of the law: namely, that the uppercase Law should represent our best standards and that we should be radically casuistic and contextual about punishment. This doesn’t come without ill-effects (partially enforced rules are great for persecutory enforcement), but everything comes with a trade-off, and the lights of my view of the Law become unusually visible when considering the case of abortion.

On the flip side: the previous standard was lenient enough that late-term abortions (which is just horrific) were becoming acceptable, and worse, that no particular moral weight was given to the act of killing an unseen human. Abortions were seen lightly and purely in the light of personal bodily autonomy (which isn’t real). The “Roe standard” enabled an unchecked culture of narcissism that ultimately deadened the soul.

As it is, the power to kill an unseen human in relatively “hygienic” manner (that is, so that the act of killing is obscured by the trappings of healthcare) is a human superpower. Let us wield it wisely.

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