My fellow Liberal Conspirators want me to join the Coalition for Choice. I’m reluctant to do so, as I ’m not at all happy about defending the right to abortion.
I say this because there are two secular arguments for thinking foetuses have value.
One is simple empiricism. Many women who miscarry feel something like bereavement, which suggests they regard a foetus as something like a living being - not as much so as an actual child, perhaps, but certainly more than just a bundle of cells.
The other is that a foetus can be regarded as a call option upon a human being. If human beings are valuable, an option on them must also have value - though again, less than that of a full human.
You don’t, therefore, need to believe in religious mumbo-jumbo to believe that an abortion destroys something of value.
That said, there are arguments for allowing abortion. Not least is that abortions are often not so much a net destruction of life so much as a re-arrangement of it. There are people alive today who owe their existence to abortions.
This is because a major motive for a woman to have an abortion is that she is not yet ready to be a parent. Having an abortion at 20, then, can be a way of clearing the ground so that she can be a good mother at 30. If this woman were banned from having an abortion at 20, the child she has at 30 might not be born at all - as she would feel unable to give it as much attention as she'd like.
Allowing abortion, therefore, helps ensure that children are brought up by better parents - with more chance of becoming good citizens. And banning abortion would merely further increase the number of ill-brought up yobs roaming the street.
My problem is, this argument - whilst appealing - is a close neighbour of some very ugly ones. It’s a form of liberal eugenics.
Now, I don’t want to reach a strong conclusion here. Instinctively, I'd much rather side with abortion rights' campaigners than with religious maniacs and evidence-manipulators. It's just that I can't trust my instincts.