I refer to Dr Phua Dong Haur’s letter, “Banning abortion will create more problems (Aug 1).”
Although it is true that some legislation should be examined periodically to assess its current relevance, Ms Tan's arguments as to why we should relook the abortion law is one sided.
Fallacy of poisoning the well. You should show how her argument is “one-sided.” Disagreeing with your point of view does not imply that she is being “one-sided.” Isn’t your emphasis on the mother’s choice (i.e. pro-choice or pro-termination) extremely parochial and one-sided as well? (And the one-sidedness of which I will show in the following paragraphs).
She acknowledged that backstreet abortions are dangerous but stated that this reason does not justify legalising abortion. I would like to point out that the danger of backstreet abortion is one of the central issues in legalising abortion.
The key issue here is whether non-therapeutic abortion “simpliciter” is morally/ethically right or wrong. If non-therapeutic abortion is morally wrong, then both backstreet and “legalized” abortions for non-lifesaving reasons are wrong. This is the key issue which you should address first. Avoiding the relevant ethics of abortion only makes one’s arguments (if any) appear fatuous and misinformed.
Likewise, the danger or existence of backstreet euthanasia doesn’t make euthanasia morally right, right? Do we legalize euthanasia simply because they are patients doing it illegally (and of course, with the adherent or accompanying risks of therapeutic failure and complications)?
Dear Dr Phua, the fallacy you have committed is called the ignoratio elenchi. Your argument (thus far) does not even begin to address the central ethical issue of abortion; you have merely argued for its utilitarian value for the mother alone.
Backstreet abortions are done using dangerous techniques or oral ingestion, and they often result in injuries or death to the woman. If medically supervised abortions are banned or made difficult to access, women who want or need an abortion and are unable to travel overseas to do it, will inadvertently turn to backstreet abortions. The result will be tragic.
Your argument fails even the most simplistic of informal logic; therefore, I will not take the time here to discuss utilitarianism with you.
Your syllogism is as follow:
Form of your argument - If A, Then B.
“If medically supervised abortions are banned or made difficult to access (A), then women will inadvertently turn to backstreet abortions (B).” (If A, then B).
Valid forms include – A, therefore B.
It, however, does not follow that - not A, therefore, not B (a logical fallacy called “denying the antecedent”). That is, it does not follow that the following statement is logically true:
“If medically supervised abortions are not banned or made difficult to access (not A), then women will inadvertently not turn to backstreet abortions (not B).”
While there is evidence to suggest that life begins at conception, and various major religions hold similar views, we cannot justify endangering the life of a woman by forcing her to seek backstreet abortions, just to protect the life of the foetus. Similarly, the life of the foetus needs to be protected.
So is it justified that we deny the “right to life” to a child in order to satisfy the whims of the mother? Your statement begs the question, “Why does the mother want an abortion in the first place? Is the requirement therapeutic in nature i.e. to save the mother’s life” She would not be endangered in any way if she chooses not to have an abortion for whimsical reasons. Also, is non-therapeutic abortion ethical for any reason at all?
What so perplexes me is your apparent duplicity in arguing for the denial of the “right to life” of the child, and in the same breath, claimed that “the life of the fetus needs to be protected.” How so? By dismembering the child via abortive techniques? Indeed, the child needs to be protected from paralogisms originating from illogical minds.
Hence, I would argue that the decision to go for an abortion or not, should be left to the woman and the woman alone. This is because she is the one who has to bear the emotional and physical burden, and responsibility of either the pregnancy or abortion. It is not anyone else's place to decide for her, as long as she is mentally competent to make such a decision.
A non sequitur. If an action is inherently unethical or immoral, then society has the right to administer judgment and the necessary legislation. The autonomy of an individual cannot be divorced from societal considerations.
The “right to life” of a child (or any patient) must always be considered in such ethical debates. In the same vein, the “mental competence” reasoning can be used to justify all forms of voluntary euthanasia – it is, after all, the dying/suffering patient who has to bear the main “emotional and physical burden” of the illness/sufferings.
Autonomy must be subjected to and balanced with the other guiding principles of medical ethics - justice, beneficence and non-maleficence. And one of the responsibilities of being a doctor is to save life, not destroy it. This is basic “non-maleficence” as stated in the Hippocratic Oath, “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” I guess the Oath is now only repeated as a lip-service to your alma mater. Besides, most abortions are not performed to save a patient’s life.
In the case of therapeutic abortions, most cases of eclampsia/pre-eclampsia and other life-threatening obstetric conditions occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and medical technology today can maintain the life of most 20 plus weeks old children till maturity. Thus, abortion (i.e. to kill the child) even for most life-threatening obstetric conditions is unnecessary.
The rational approach to the dilemma of abortion is not to disallow women to make their own choice, but to educate the public on proper methods of birth control, and alternative avenues other than abortion in an unwanted pregnancy, for example, adoption.
But what if that choice is unethical and causes harm to the unborn child? Furthermore, two wrongs do not make a right. The failure to practice birth control and the consequential unwanted pregnancy does not make abortion (or more precisely, the killing of the unborn child) morally right. We shouldn’t be correcting a “mistake” (i.e. the unwanted pregnancy) with another “mistake” – that of taking the life of the unborn child.
The approach to reducing abortion rates is in education and not legislation.
A false dilemma. The approach to reducing abortion rates is in education AND legislation (and many other means).
Finally, I would like to add that relooking the abortion law is not the method we should adopt to increase the birth rate. The idea is to make people want to have more children and enjoy having more children.
How does the legalization of abortion enable people to desire or enjoy having more children? Have I misunderstood the fact that it is exactly because such people do not desire or enjoy having that child that they chose to abort him or her (at least in most cases today)?
Making abortion illegal or difficult to access certainly does not increase the desire or enjoyment of having more children.
As an analogy, do you mean that making euthanasia illegal likewise does not increase the desire or enjoyment of taking care of our incapacitated parents? Should we therefore legalize euthanasia such that, whenever the care of our severely handicapped parents becomes an overwhelming burden or torment to our physical or mental health, we can have the option to “abort” them? And this (i.e. legalization of euthanasia) is alleged to increase the desire and enjoyment of taking care of our incapacitated parents?
What about the “right to life” of every human being which you have so conveniently ignored in this discussion?