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Abortion and Child Abuse

November 27th, 2008 by Matt

Bloggers WhaleOil and David Farrar are in disagreement over some comments made by Garth George in the New Zealand Herald regarding abortion and child abuse.

Garth George says:

I have said it before and I say it again: The number one cause of abuse against women and children is abortion.

David Farrar says:

I disagree. I think there would be less child abuse if there were more abortions. The world would be a better place if those who are not suited to be parents did not become parents.

Whale Oil says:

I think they both are missing the point.

We have become a society that tolerates and indeed allows violence against children it is just a matter of where you draw the line that is the argument.

Garth George draws the line at conceptiona and David Farrar draws the line at birth. (I think, perhaps he would like to clarify when it is ok to kill babies and when it is
not.)

My view is that we are indeed a sick society at whatever point we kill and excuse it away with weasel words like foetus, procedure, first trimester etc.

Likewise my view about most of the recent cases of horrific child abuse is that they are no more and no less anything but late term abortions. The simple fact is that the parents of the children had no more respect for the life of the child than someon having a “procedure”.

You see if we accept that you can kill children at up to 21 weeks from conception then why not at birth or why not at 5 years old, or even 18 just before they can vote. For me there is no difference. The Nia Glassie’s and Kahui twins are simply late term abortions by parents who no longer respected the life of their child. As long as we fail to respect human life then we will continue to get these case and no one should be at all shocked by it all.

Whaleoil has a point, something Adolf agrees with me on, though David Farrar’s argument is not new; in, “Abortion a Feminist Perspective”, Susan Sherwin mentions that feticide may be justified in order to prevent child abuse.

[F]eminists recognize that women have abortions for a wide variety of compelling reasons. … knowing the fathers to be brutal and violent, may be unwilling to subject a child to the beatings or incestuous attacks they anticipate; some may have no other realistic way to remove the child (or themselves) from the relationship.[i]

In addition to outright abuse, she also suggests child neglect.

Women who suffer from chronic disease, who believe themselves too young or too old to have children, or who are unable to maintain lasting relationships may recognize that they will not be able to care properly for a child when they face the decision.[ii]

The argument is a two-premise syllogism. The first premise asserts that permitting feticide prevents child abuse or future child neglect. This is because it destroys organisms that will probably be abused in the future. The second premise claims that it is permissible to kill an organism if we know that it will probably be abused or neglected in the future.

The second premise is false. Consider a new-born child born into a context whereby one knows that it is likely that it will be abused either physically or sexually in the future. If the major premise were true, then killing that infant to protect it from abuse would be permissible. In fact, according to this principle, it is acceptable to kill any person, child, teenager or adult whom we know is likely to be abused in the future.

In order to be plausible, Sherwin and Farrar must limit the kinds of entities that the principle is referring to. It must be restricted to exclude entities that are infants or other human beings such as toddlers, adolescents and adults. However, the proponent of this argument must assume that fetuses are not human beings in the same sense that infants are. The argument is sound only if feticide is not homicide.

Engaging in feticide to prevent child abuse is only justifiable if feticide is somehow the morally-better option. If the two are both homicide then one will be engaging in the very action one is trying to prevent. Sherwin and Farrar’s argument relies on the assumption that feticide is not homicide. Farrar has, of course, argued for this assumption, he maintains that a fetus is not a human being until it acquires an ECG which Farrar places at 20 weeks. As I argue in, Abortion and Brain Death: A Response to Farrar, this argument is unsuccessful as are the other attempts to place it at viability, sentience or personhood.

[i] Susan Sherwin “Abortion a Feminist Perspective.” In Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, 5th ed., ed. Bonnie Steinbock & John D. Arras, (Mountain View CA: Mayfield Publishing Co) 1999, 361.
[ii] Ibid.

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1 response so far ↓

  • I don’t want to get involved in a debate on abortion because there are only two conclusions, either we have abortion on demand or we treat abortion as homicide and prosecute accordingly, and neither are attractive. So I will make the following points and leave many others unsaid.

    I believe Garth George has a point. The availability of abortion and also contraception was suppose to reduce if not end child abuse. Every child is a wanted child I think was the feminist mantra. I don’t have the figures to hand but it is my understanding that the incidence of child abuse has increased in parallel with the increasing use of abortion and contraception. Whether the availability of abortion and contraception is a cause of the increase in child abuse or there are other causes I don’t know.

    However the use of abortion and contraception does require forward planning and taking responsibility for ones actions, characteristics of women who would make good parents, characteristics not demonstrated by the underclass who live on welfare produce numerous children and abuse them.