[Here's Justin's comment on my parental consent post. I wanted to put it up here just to make sure that nobody missed it because of troll infestation at Ezra's. Again, the words are Justin's not mine, which is why I'm referred to in the 3rd person.]
I like the argument.
I strongly suspect that the general population's moral intuitions about abortion and what should and shouldn't be legally allowed are something of a mess. Here's a question sequence I've asked students:
#1) Is abortion morally wrong?
Ignoring those who say yes, for those who say no consider the next question...
#2) Imagine a woman who has 87 abortions over the course of her lifetime. She has each one with complete indifference -- they don't give her pause for thought, much less any regret. Admittedly, this isn't very cost efficient for her, and the abortions don't protect her from STDs, but for whatever reason abortion is her favored method of birth control. Is this woman doing anything morally wrong?
Many people who confidently say 'no' to #1 feel at least some inclination to say 'yes' to #2. In fact, my own unreflective intuitions (but not my considered judgment) go this way. But, it would seem, this is incoherent. If abortion really is morally neutral (a 0 on the moral ledger rather than a -10), then a whole bunch of it should be morally neutral too (37 x 0 = 0). So, if you're okay with abortion, as I am, it seems that you should be okay with the woman in #2 too. But again, I find that my intuitions just don't want to point this way.
Related to this point, if abortion is genuinely morally permissible, then there is no *moral* reason that we should want abortion to be rare. There may be financial reasons (e.g., abortions are expensive) and there may be psychological reasons (e.g., even though abortions are morally permissible, people have a hard time allowing this point to fully sink in, and so they have hangups) to want abortion to be rare. But, from a moral perspective, we shouldn't really prefer a country where abortion is rare to a country where it's extraordinarily abundant.
Public polls on where people stand on abortion -- for X, against Y, etc. -- seem to me to reflect incoherence. That is, they don't reflect a carefully worked out and subtle view which could justify how you could be in favor of X but against Y. What they reflect is a deep underlying incoherence accordin to which abortion is sorta okay and sorta not.
Views on parental consent laws are, I think, a case in point. If abortion is genuinely bad, then parental consent should be irrelevant -- parental consent can't make an immoral action moral. On the other hand, if abortion isn't bad, then Neil's sort of reasoning seems good to me. It's plausible to me that the usual motivation for parental consent doesn't generally apply in abortion cases or, if anything, applies in the opposite direction of how the laws actually go (as Neil argues).
Still, at a gut level, Neil's argument feels "glib", like it's missing the deep point here. At least in my own case, though, I suspect that this intuitive reaction to the argument should be ignored. My intuitions here ought to be rejected, just as my intutions that there's something wrong with the woman in #2 above ought to be rejected. I suspect that those intuitions of mine which speak against Neil's argument aren't really responding to some deep and good considerations which speak in favor of parental consent while acknowledging that abortion per se is morally permissible. I suspect that what my intuitions are responding to is an underlying incoherence I have on abortion.
Blast from the past: the Derrida Industry
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