The Other Abortion Question

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ala1993
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The Other Abortion Question

Post by ala1993 »

Proponents of anti-abortion legislation often appeal to the idea of the sanctity of life. The mere fact of life, the activity of 'living' (where living is the biological condition for 'existing', which for the purposes of this post I understand to be an augmentation of 'living' that incorporates memories, projects and ethical interaction) is something to be revered and never willfully extinguished. The life of the infant that is born with severe disabilities is seen to be as sacred as any other.

What if we ask another question? While we make this reference to the aforementioned idea, we do not ask whether it is ever wrong to force life upon someone when it has been established that their life will incorporate suffering to a great degree. If a child is born with a severe disability, what do we do? It is seen to be morally corrupt, almost monstrous to choose to end the life of that child (or to prevent it from being born in the first place if we are aware of its condition at that point). However, in what way is it morally justifiable to keep a child alive when we know that it suffering and that this suffering is unlikely to ever end? Put simply, are we 'imposing life'?

I have my problems with the pro-life movement, but none more so than their commandeering of the term 'life' and the subsequent inability to speak of it as anything more than 'mere being'. I would like 'pro-life' to include quality of life (although I am aware that this would hinder their cause) as I do not think that mere being is the only kind of life that can be defended. Given all of this, what of the question (if any) of 'imposing life'?
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The Voice of Time
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by The Voice of Time »

Severe disabilities is not the same as suffering. Many with severe disabilities live a good life.

I would say it's more about an attitude than anything. A mother with a good attitude can brighten the life of most people!
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John
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by John »

Apologies in advance for what is going to be rather a lengthy quote taken from the transcript of a video I watched recently that seemed particularly pertinent to the question at hand.

The video is from the Open University and is entitled The New Eugenics (I watched it as part of the politics course I'm currently studying) and the extract is from Dr. Tom Shakespeare who has achondroplasia and is a "campaigner for disability rights, a writer on disability, genetics and bio-ethics" (I took that from his Wikipedia article).

The emphasis is mine.
Tom Shakespeare wrote:I'm not against termination of pregnancy; I'm not against screening for disability; I'm not against selective termination at all, but I do think that people need to understand the context they're making the choices, the reality of life as a disabled person.

What you get if you're pregnant or if you're looking at genetics, there's lots of information about genomes and about hormones and about risk and so forth. You get next to nothing about what it's like to live with a disabled child as your child, or what it's like to grow up as a disabled adult. And my point is that there are many many worse things in the world than disability, and that disabled people can play a valued role in the world. They do, every day. So the idea that we must, we have a duty, a responsibility to exercise choice in this particular direction, I think is questionable.

This argument that a termination is in the interest of the foetus because they would lead a difficult life is just, is not sustainable on two levels. First of all, it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead. And the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead. Very rarely it might be, but by and large it's not. Certainly not for people like, with Down's syndrome. And secondly, it's the fact that non-disabled people think of disabled people's lives as limited and terrible and miserable and full of suffering. And that's just not empirically true. If you look at quality of life estimates, non-disabled people consistently undervalue the quality of life of disabled people. Disabled people say they live broadly good lives; non-disabled people think it must be a terrible life. In some surveys non-disabled - disabled people's quality of life is actually better than non-disabled people.

And of course, having a disabled child makes your life more difficult. It's a stress for the parents, we don't support families adequately if they have disabled children. And of course, you know, having a disability makes life different and in some cases worse. It's a predicament. You're excluded from certain things. In some cases you have a lot of pain and difficulty, but that's life. Life is full of pain and difficulty. And you know, ask any parent of a normal child, was that easy? Was it always fun? Did the kid, was the kid perfect? No. It's very difficult to be a parent of any child. It's possibly sometimes particularly difficult to be the parent of a disabled child, but it's the issue of degree, not of qualitative difference. Life is hard. Disability is only part of that and it doesn't make life not worth living.
artisticsolution
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by artisticsolution »

Interesting stuff. Okay then....let's talk quality of life. In the case of Terry Schiavo ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case ), Here is a life that was ended because her husband took the case to court and won. Her parents fought to keep her alive at all costs. They were willing to take care of her until she died of natural causes.

I am not so concerned about the "life saving" in this case as I am the caretakers life. I believe Terry should have been allowed to live simple because her parents were willing to take care of her....I see this the same as being a host body to an unborn bunch of cells. You can hardly call terry schavio "alive" the same as you could hardly call a bunch of cells "alive." For all intent and purposes they are dead, insofar as they have no knowledge of being alive or dead. I believe there is a cut off date where we can say a fetus becomes a "life" and this could be the compromise between pro- lifers and pro-choicers.

It seems to me that both parties are at fault for not wanting to be reasonable. In the case of pro lifer's, I think it is wrong for them to want to control women in such a fashion. I do believe they could care less about the woman and only focus on the unborn. This shows the unconcern for women and how women still are secondhand citizens. Society does not value women. Let's face it...there is a choice to be made....the woman's right to have say over her own body vs. a bunch of cells which do not have the ability to know anything. Why choose the cells over a real breathing thinking woman? Can someone answer me that?

On the other hand, it seems to me when the fetus is fully formed and could breath on it's own, then I think they are a human being with rights to be held up by the state. In this case, if the host body has waited too long, then to have an abortion is wrong. I believe the unborn suffers when being aborted in the late stages of pregnancy and pro choicer's should concede this fact.
ala1993
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by ala1993 »

While it's interesting to talk about Terri Schiavo in regards to the question of quality of life, I think we should stick to the topic of abortion/ending the life of a child rather than someone who has already been born and lived a life (despite the quality of said life being severely impeded).

TVoT - I don't think that I ever suggested that severe disabilities are 'the same as' suffering. Rather, my point was based on the fact that there are such disabilities that cause the individual to suffer greatly (I'm not as interested in the matter of whether other people e.g. parents suffer although I admit that its not irrelevant).

John, while I wish you had simply made your points instead of emboldening parts of a quote that you liked, you seem to have made it clear as to what you think regarding this issue; as such, I'll respond. First of all, it's quite a leap to suppose that we are necessarily talking about eugenics (I realise that you do not explicitly use the term; however, you are quoting from a video entitled 'The New Eugenics'). Eugenics is concerned with eradicating those qualities that are seen as detrimental on a species level, rather than with alleviating (or, in this case, preventing) the suffering of an individual. The difference is between not wanting a particular person to suffer and not wanting a characteristic on a more general level. We are not attempting to 'get rid' of disability (although it would be interesting to talk about whether we should if we were able to do so without ending life).

Let's examine the following passage, as it seems to relate to my point regarding 'forcing life':
it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead
It is presumed that no disability could be 'worse than being dead'. There are a number of problems with this. The first and most problematic is that death is not a point on the spectrum of quality of life; rather, it is the total lack of all qualities. We are comparing a state of being to a total lack of being - to non-being in its most absolute sense. Put simply, we cannot know what death is like and so cannot claim that some state of being is any worse (or any better).
If, however, we accept this but qualify it by saying that we don't mean 'non-being' per se, but rather (e.g.) the lack of possibility for self-determination, we must accept that there are states of being that do not present this possibility. In fact, the excerpt goes on to say:
the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead
Putting the problematic life/death contrast to one side, if we look at the language here we must not overlook the phrase "of the vast majority". I am not talking about this majority. Rather, I am talking about any case in which the life of the infant will be one of pain and suffering without much chance of (e.g.) self-determination (in fact, the almost total lack of self-determination constitutes much of what would be called 'suffering). Where we are considering a child with a disability that is shared by living individuals who themselves have lived lives that they consider to be happy and enjoyable then we have little, if any, recourse to the argument that such a life could be considered 'suffering'.

There is also this passage, which I really can't overlook:
In some cases you have a lot of pain and difficulty, but that's life. Life is full of pain and difficulty
Life might be 'full of pain and difficultly', but would we wish this upon anyone? We might say that any parent does so insofar as they opt to bring a new life into the world. However, we can distinguish between those who are or can become equipped to understand and deal with this pain and those who have it thrust upon them despite the knowledge that they will be unable to comprehend and cope with it in this way.

Put simply, 'disability' is not what we are talking about. Rather, we are talking about those particular disabilities that render an individual almost (and sometimes fully) incapable of living a self-determined life.

Lastly, artisticsolution, you wrote:
I believe the unborn suffers when being aborted in the late stages of pregnancy and pro choicer's should concede this fact.
I don't think that 'pro-choicers' need to make such a concession. This is not because such 'suffering' remains unproven. Rather, anyone who is involved in the decision of whether or not to abort is thinking of the foetus as much as themselves. We find that many would-be parents who terminated a pregnancy feel guilty for a long time afterwards (and sometimes for the rest of their lives). Nevertheless, it is a question not of whether non-suffering is preferable to suffering, but rather of which suffering is worse - that of an immediate termination of life or that of a life being lived.


Would anyone like to indulge me as to my original question regarding whether we can speak of pregnancy and birth as 'forcing life'? My point being that if we can be said to 'force death' on a person (in this case either an unborn or a newborn infant) then, given their lack of any ability to decide for themselves, we can also be said to 'force life' on them if we do not terminate.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by artisticsolution »

Thanks Ala,

I think my Teri Schavio story was in keeping with your point of "forced" life. The only difference is that she was born. And here is the point I am trying to make. If we say pregnancy and birth is forced life...then can we also say that insemination or pulling the plug or other forms of "forced life" is the same?

If we can't then the choice to have children would lay directly on the mother and all life would be here because of her. I do think that to a certain degree this is why the mother is blamed so often when the child goes wrong. The father usually gets off scot free in any responsibility of the child....before and after birth...and yet I think we all could agree that he is needed for these decisions to even take place.

So, if life is forced, I think we should take into account all forms of "forced life in our distribution of the blame?

The reason I am bringing this up is because abortion as an unlawful act only blames the woman as the criminal.
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John
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by John »

ala1993 wrote:John, while I wish you had simply made your points instead of emboldening parts of a quote that you liked, you seem to have made it clear as to what you think regarding this issue; as such, I'll respond. First of all, it's quite a leap to suppose that we are necessarily talking about eugenics (I realise that you do not explicitly use the term; however, you are quoting from a video entitled 'The New Eugenics').
I provided the full title of the video, "The New Eugenics", because I don't like to quote others without citing the source and the particular passage seemed relevant so it was not my intention to emotionally load the argument as I recognise that you're referring to suffering and not "undesirable traits".
ala1993 wrote:Let's examine the following passage, as it seems to relate to my point regarding 'forcing life':
it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead
It is presumed that no disability could be 'worse than being dead'.
Only if you ignore the "vast majority" qualification that follows it and as you address this in your next argument this one seems superfluous.
ala1993 wrote:There are a number of problems with this. The first and most problematic is that death is not a point on the spectrum of quality of life; rather, it is the total lack of all qualities. We are comparing a state of being to a total lack of being - to non-being in its most absolute sense. Put simply, we cannot know what death is like and so cannot claim that some state of being is any worse (or any better).
In most cases being alive is considered preferable to being dead.
ala1993 wrote:If, however, we accept this but qualify it by saying that we don't mean 'non-being' per se, but rather (e.g.) the lack of possibility for self-determination, we must accept that there are states of being that do not present this possibility. In fact, the excerpt goes on to say:
the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead
Putting the problematic life/death contrast to one side, if we look at the language here we must not overlook the phrase "of the vast majority". I am not talking about this majority. Rather, I am talking about any case in which the life of the infant will be one of pain and suffering without much chance of (e.g.) self-determination (in fact, the almost total lack of self-determination constitutes much of what would be called 'suffering).
If you are defining "suffering" in terms of a lack of self-determination perhaps you could expand on exactly what you mean by that. Also, is there any difference between the foetus with a chance of suffering and the baby with actual suffering in your equation? If it is acceptable to prevent suffering to what extent is it acceptable to end it once it is being endured?

I think Shakespeare is also making a political point here in that laws tend to be quite broad and are intended to be applied dispassionately so he's concerned about generalisations.
ala1993 wrote:Where we are considering a child with a disability that is shared by living individuals who themselves have lived lives that they consider to be happy and enjoyable then we have little, if any, recourse to the argument that such a life could be considered 'suffering'.

There is also this passage, which I really can't overlook:
In some cases you have a lot of pain and difficulty, but that's life. Life is full of pain and difficulty
Life might be 'full of pain and difficultly', but would we wish this upon anyone? We might say that any parent does so insofar as they opt to bring a new life into the world. However, we can distinguish between those who are or can become equipped to understand and deal with this pain and those who have it thrust upon them despite the knowledge that they will be unable to comprehend and cope with it in this way.
I believe the point is that we all suffer pain and difficulty and the able-bodied have a tendency to overestimate the pain and difficulty suffered by those with disabilities.
ala1993 wrote:Put simply, 'disability' is not what we are talking about. Rather, we are talking about those particular disabilities that render an individual almost (and sometimes fully) incapable of living a self-determined life.
I want to know what you mean by a self-determined life because I'm not convince any of us have one.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

ala1993 wrote:Proponents of anti-abortion legislation often appeal to the idea of the sanctity of life. The mere fact of life, the activity of 'living' (where living is the biological condition for 'existing', which for the purposes of this post I understand to be an augmentation of 'living' that incorporates memories, projects and ethical interaction) is something to be revered and never willfully extinguished. The life of the infant that is born with severe disabilities is seen to be as sacred as any other.

What if we ask another question? While we make this reference to the aforementioned idea, we do not ask whether it is ever wrong to force life upon someone when it has been established that their life will incorporate suffering to a great degree. If a child is born with a severe disability, what do we do? It is seen to be morally corrupt, almost monstrous to choose to end the life of that child (or to prevent it from being born in the first place if we are aware of its condition at that point). However, in what way is it morally justifiable to keep a child alive when we know that it suffering and that this suffering is unlikely to ever end? Put simply, are we 'imposing life'?

I have my problems with the pro-life movement, but none more so than their commandeering of the term 'life' and the subsequent inability to speak of it as anything more than 'mere being'. I would like 'pro-life' to include quality of life (although I am aware that this would hinder their cause) as I do not think that mere being is the only kind of life that can be defended. Given all of this, what of the question (if any) of 'imposing life'?
The pro-life lobby is a morally bankrupt movement of people who, in assuming the moral high-ground, think it perfectly acceptable to impose their own moral rectitude upon other people.
"Imposing Life" on a suffering creature is the the same stamp as imposing the continuation of an unwanted pregnancy upon a woman. They assume a demand on others that they are not able to fulfil in themselves. Were they, as a group, to organise themselves to adopt all of the unwanted children (disabilities and all), to share their suffering and to nurture them to health, THEN and only then can they take the stand that they do. In such a situation I have no doubt that their resolve would soon crumble: it is easy to tell other people what they can and cannot do - not so easy to take responsibility for ones own moral position.

Pro-life claims a position of absolute moral truth. We should always reject such claims and suspect the motives of those that demand others to follow their own moral standards.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

The Voice of Time wrote:Severe disabilities is not the same as suffering. Many with severe disabilities live a good life.

I would say it's more about an attitude than anything. A mother with a good attitude can brighten the life of most people!
What you say is true, but there are some severe disabilities that lead to a life-time of suffering.
I think it was those he was talking about.
Mothers usually die before their offspring, and this often has the effect of leaving the child with a bleak future - in some cases.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

John wrote:Apologies in advance for what is going to be rather a lengthy quote taken from the transcript of a video I watched recently that seemed particularly pertinent to the question at hand.

The video is from the Open University and is entitled The New Eugenics (I watched it as part of the politics course I'm currently studying) and the extract is from Dr. Tom Shakespeare who has achondroplasia and is a "campaigner for disability rights, a writer on disability, genetics and bio-ethics" (I took that from his Wikipedia article).

The emphasis is mine.
Tom Shakespeare wrote:First of all, it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead. And the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead.
This is a Classic bit of selective bias here, as all surviving people including disabled people, have managed to have sufficient 'ableness' to maintain their lives, and make them worth living.

How many babies die in the early stages of life from shocking suffering, and how many foetuses that are malformed make it full term?


...
In addition there are plenty of people (disabled or not) that come to the conclusion that life is not worth living - because when push comes to shove - its all pretty pointless by the end.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

artisticsolution wrote:Thanks Ala,

I think my Teri Schavio story was in keeping with your point of "forced" life. The only difference is that she was born. And here is the point I am trying to make. If we say pregnancy and birth is forced life...then can we also say that insemination or pulling the plug or other forms of "forced life" is the same?

If we can't then the choice to have children would lay directly on the mother and all life would be here because of her. I do think that to a certain degree this is why the mother is blamed so often when the child goes wrong. The father usually gets off scot free in any responsibility of the child....before and after birth...and yet I think we all could agree that he is needed for these decisions to even take place.

So, if life is forced, I think we should take into account all forms of "forced life in our distribution of the blame?

The reason I am bringing this up is because abortion as an unlawful act only blames the woman as the criminal.
Why apportion blame at all?
What - are you Catholic or something?
Finger pointing and disapprobation are useless negative reactions, when what is needed is solutions, and good information to base decisions on.

- BTW, where abortion is actually illegal, the law not only lays the blame on the woman but anyone else involved in the act of abortion including agents and the practicing aborter.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by artisticsolution »

chaz wyman wrote: Why apportion blame at all?
What - are you Catholic or something?
Finger pointing and disapprobation are useless negative reactions, when what is needed is solutions, and good information to base decisions on.

- BTW, where abortion is actually illegal, the law not only lays the blame on the woman but anyone else involved in the act of abortion including agents and the practicing aborter.
Hi Chaz,

I was simply asking a question about why we blame people for an act that is none of our business. Whether or not I am catholic is irrelevant. I was simply asking a question. As for blame, I don't point fingers, but it is a fact of life that most people do. Even in the other abortion thread, a few people made an implied judgment that women were to blame for wrong doing if she had more than one abortion.

Anyway, I was not coming from an emotional place when I wrote that....I was just asking. Yes, the blame seems to lie on the practicing aborter too but I think far more people lay blame on the woman in general, it's just that it makes the headlines when it's the abortion clinic and employees.

I think I am talking more about the underlying sentiment that is present...the one that would cause people who are pro-choice to admonish women who have had more than one abortion. It is curious to me how a person could be pro choice...but then to think a woman who made too many decision to abort could be admonished. Either something is wrong or it's not. If it's not then why is there a blame factor involved? Don't you find that curious? I do.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by John »

chaz wyman wrote:
John wrote:Apologies in advance for what is going to be rather a lengthy quote taken from the transcript of a video I watched recently that seemed particularly pertinent to the question at hand.

The video is from the Open University and is entitled The New Eugenics (I watched it as part of the politics course I'm currently studying) and the extract is from Dr. Tom Shakespeare who has achondroplasia and is a "campaigner for disability rights, a writer on disability, genetics and bio-ethics" (I took that from his Wikipedia article).

The emphasis is mine.
Tom Shakespeare wrote:First of all, it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead. And the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead.
This is a Classic bit of selective bias here, as all surviving people including disabled people, have managed to have sufficient 'ableness' to maintain their lives, and make them worth living.

How many babies die in the early stages of life from shocking suffering, and how many foetuses that are malformed make it full term?
I believe his main point, which I would agree with, is that we should be careful of making assumptions about someone's experience of life based on a disability because it's easy to fall into the trap of undervaluing it. The interview was more about the relationship between abortion and disability in general though rather than extreme cases so I suppose it might be seen as more political than philosophical.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

artisticsolution wrote:
chaz wyman wrote: Why apportion blame at all?
What - are you Catholic or something?
Finger pointing and disapprobation are useless negative reactions, when what is needed is solutions, and good information to base decisions on.

- BTW, where abortion is actually illegal, the law not only lays the blame on the woman but anyone else involved in the act of abortion including agents and the practicing aborter.
Hi Chaz,

I was simply asking a question about why we blame people for an act that is none of our business. Whether or not I am catholic is irrelevant. I was simply asking a question. As for blame, I don't point fingers, but it is a fact of life that most people do. Even in the other abortion thread, a few people made an implied judgment that women were to blame for wrong doing if she had more than one abortion.

Indeed I did. I was talking about a very specific set of conditions rather than offering generalising moral rules.

Anyway, I was not coming from an emotional place when I wrote that....I was just asking. Yes, the blame seems to lie on the practicing aborter too but I think far more people lay blame on the woman in general, it's just that it makes the headlines when it's the abortion clinic and employees.

This is odd. Was it you on the other thread that also said this? As I said on the other thread - I do not recognise this. Most people I know would share the difficulty and problems inherent in choosing one way or the other. They would recognise the situation - an unintended situation that is not easy to solve in any sense. I'm guess you are exposed to a good deal of negative media coverage - NONE of which exists in the UK.


I think I am talking more about the underlying sentiment that is present...the one that would cause people who are pro-choice to admonish women who have had more than one abortion. It is curious to me how a person could be pro choice...but then to think a woman who made too many decision to abort could be admonished.

I covered that answer to that question from 2 or 3 positions. Take a look at the other thread!

Either something is wrong or it's not. If it's not then why is there a blame factor involved? Don't you find that curious? I do.
One is not the same as many - ask anyone who is loosing their teeth.
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Re: The Other Abortion Question

Post by chaz wyman »

John wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
John wrote:Apologies in advance for what is going to be rather a lengthy quote taken from the transcript of a video I watched recently that seemed particularly pertinent to the question at hand.

The video is from the Open University and is entitled The New Eugenics (I watched it as part of the politics course I'm currently studying) and the extract is from Dr. Tom Shakespeare who has achondroplasia and is a "campaigner for disability rights, a writer on disability, genetics and bio-ethics" (I took that from his Wikipedia article).

The emphasis is mine.
Tom Shakespeare wrote:First of all, it's always in a person's interest to be born unless the life that they would lead is worse than being dead. And the life of the vast majority of disabled people is not worse than being dead.
This is a Classic bit of selective bias here, as all surviving people including disabled people, have managed to have sufficient 'ableness' to maintain their lives, and make them worth living.

How many babies die in the early stages of life from shocking suffering, and how many foetuses that are malformed make it full term?
I believe his main point, which I would agree with, is that we should be careful of making assumptions about someone's experience of life based on a disability because it's easy to fall into the trap of undervaluing it. The interview was more about the relationship between abortion and disability in general though rather than extreme cases so I suppose it might be seen as more political than philosophical.
The other angle one could take is a sort of "designer baby" attitude and the moral disapprobation that goes with it. Trendy middle class couples want their perfect baby and would rather not have their life-style compromised by having to provide extra care for 'less that perfect' children. I'm not sure this is a fair caricature. Life is short and if you are keen to make a family I could not criticise a couple for not wanting their (hopefully) limited number of children (2.4?) to get the best start possible. WHilst I understand the disabled lobby's argument that this sort of abortion makes their disability somehow "less than human", I would still encourage us as a species to avoid the most obvious problems. No one can guarantee any level of care so the basic fitness of a person to be able to face changing economic and environmental uncertainties is indicated.
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