Instigator / Pro

Abortion should, in most cases, be illegal.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 7 votes and with 36 points ahead, the winner is...

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One week
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Two weeks
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Contender / Con

I will be holding the position that abortion should always be illegal except for in those cases wherein the life of the mother is put in abnormal danger by pregnancy and the child cannot be safely removed from the womb by doctors and kept alive.

Round 1
My case will be made up of a two-pronged argument. One scientific and one philosophical.

First is the scientific prong.

the eight characteristics of life

It is a scientific fact that life begins at conception. Life is defined in biology as anything that fulfills eight requirements. These requirements are as follows

1. displays cellular organization. From the moment of conception, a human child is made of at least one cell. This requirement is fulfilled.
2. Maintains Homeostasis. Homeostasis means that a living thing maintains a constant internal environment that keeps it alive. a human embryo performs operations such as waste removal, transforming energy, and taking in nutrients from outside of the cell through constructs such as the sodium-potassium pump. This requirement is fulfilled.
3. grows and develops. It is an obvious truism that a human embryo grows and develops and begins to do so from the moment of conception. This requirement is fulfilled.
4. Displays metabolism. Metabolism is converting fuel (like food) into energy. From the moment of conception, a human child displays metabolism. This requirement is fulfilled.
5. Displays heredity. From the moment of conception, the first cell (the zygote) has the capacity to divide into more cells and pass a copy of its DNA onto those other cells. This condition is fulfilled.
6. Responds to the environment. The zygote will perform tasks such as pulling nutrients into itself through active transport and maintaining an internal environment responding to any change therein. This condition is fulfilled.
7. Adaptation through evolution. As a member of the human species, the zygote is subject to prior evolution. And, if not killed, will contribute to evolution through reproduction. this requirement is fulfilled.
8. Can reproduce. It is an obvious truism that the zygote can reproduce. dividing into more cells in order to develop into a fully formed baby. 

as we can see, from the moment of conception a zygote fulfills every single one of the characteristics of life and is therefore alive.

the humanity of the zygote

The next question that needs to be answered is whether or not the zygote is indeed human. When the two haploid (containing 23 chromosomes) cells (sperm and egg cells) come together during fertilization the diploid (containing 46 chromosomes) is formed. This diploid zygote contains a complete copy of the human genome. Thus making the zygote human. Note that the zygote's copy of the human genome is genetically distinct from both the mother and the father and is the same set of DNA that they will carry for their entire lives. 

I have therefore proven that a human child, from the moment of conception, is a living human being.

My body my choice

One of the more infamous arguments from the pro-choice crowd is that a fetus is a part of a woman's body and can, therefore, be killed at will. This argument displays basic scientific illiteracy. Only two types of things can be biological parts of your body. 1. Things made of cells that contain your DNA, or 2. Things made of cells that contain NO DNA such as hair for example. Nothing can be a part of your body that contains DNA distinct from your own. a baby from the moment of conception, as I've already proven, is genetically distinct from both the mother and the father this argument can be shown to be scientifically invalid.

the philosophical prong

the personhood of the child

After being forced to retreat on the scientific front, many pro-choicers will attempt to hide behind the following statement: "Well, the fetus may be a human being, but they're not a human person."

This is a purely philosophical contention that needs to be defined further. This statement raises the question: When is personhood conferred? Birth? Is personhood then based on geographical location? Nothing changed between those few inches of movement through the birth canal. Why then has personhood been conferred? Since most people find it unpalatable to argue in favor of abortion up to point of birth, a more common line is drawn at a heartbeat. The problem with this is that this trait can be removed. Not every adult has a heartbeat of their own. Can I stab Granny because she has a pacemaker? I sure hope not. Is the line drawn at sapience? What does that say about those born with cognitive defects and no sapience to speak of? can I stab them? I sure hope not. Or what about people who fall into a coma and have their sapience removed. We aren't allowed to kill them. Why is a fetus different? I could go on and on. The point is that wherever you draw the line (except for at conception or birth) you create an inconsistency wherein we should be able to kill adults who don't meet this criterion for personhood. If you tie moral value to a heartbeat then I should be able to stab pacemaker granny because she has no intrinsic value.

the rights of man

As Thomas Jefferson famously and eloquently put it "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." The Enlightenment gave us the idea that each individual has inherent worth and is therefore entitled to certain rights. The most critical and primal right that all humans are entitled to is that of life. To strip away the right of the human being who is growing in their mother's womb, to violently dismember them and snuff out their life constitutes a gross violation of these intrinsic, inalienable rights. These rights exist only if they are inviolable. If they don't exist for a fetus, then they don't exist. Period.

To wrap up this first argument I would like to say that the question of whether or not abortion should be legal is a very simple one that all too often becomes overcomplicated in political discourse. The dichotomy is self-evident, inherent in the philosophy of our society, and overwhelmingly simple. Either the fetus is human. Or, it isn't. If it's not, then removing it up to the point of birth should be no more morally problematic than extracting a tooth or a tumor. But if it is, then killing that child constitutes a heinous act of evil that infringes upon the most fundamental of the rights of man.

Please vote pro.


Campbell Biology: 11th edition. (The beginning of life of a new human being from the scientific biological perspective and its bioethical implications Patricio Ventura-Juncá and Manuel J. Santos)

With recent event, I got a bit behind and will have to skip this round. Sorry I thought I had more time. 
Round 2
Extend my arguments.
I want to thank my opponent for their generosity in allowing me to continue this round. I will be providing both my opening arguments and by rebuttals in this round. My opening arguments will be a mixture of philosophy and practicality.

=== Opening Statements ===

I. Observations
The debate resolution states “Abortion should, in most cases, be illegal.” This is a debate is first and foremost about policy, not ethics. As such, it is my burden to show that it should be legal in most or all cases.

II. Framework

Policy debates that deal with medical ethics ought to be weighed based on the harm principle. The harm principle is the moral framework that judges an action based on whether or not it harms other individuals. In this case, the government should not make policies that harm the population.

III. Philosophical Considerations

I’m going to begin by giving several philosophical ideas to consider.

A. The fetus is not a moral person

In order for an entity to be considered a person, it must first have at least all of the following criteria: 1) be able to survive on its own outside the mother’s body; and 2) have the capacity of consciousness and self-awareness.

It is quite obvious that the fetus does not meet the first criteria to be considered a moral person. The fetus, up until birth, is entirely dependent on the mother’s body. In order to consider why this is an important aspect in weighing moral decisions, let’s consider the famous “violinist argument” proposed by Judith Thomas:

“You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.”

I think we can all agree that a person in this situation is morally permitted to unplug themselves from the violinist. A common criticism is that this is a situation that can be applied only in the cases of rape. However, this is not so. Let’s consider that a person volunteers to be plugged into this violinist. Would it be morally permissible for that person to change their mind and unplug that person? I’m sure that we would agree that yes, it is morally permitted.

Let’s move onto point 2. An entity should only be considered a person if it has consciousness. Again, I think we can agree on that. A frozen embryo, while being fully genetically a human, should certainly not be considered a legal or moral person because it is unconscious.

B. The right to life is not absolute

No rights are absolute including the right to life. For example, the Constitution states that there is a right to religion, however, I can not sacrifice my child on the alter citing religious obligations. The Constitution also grants us the right to speech, but if I went on TV and stated that I'm going to kill the President, I'm certainly going to get arrested. When it comes to the right to life, we recognize that it is morally permissible to kill a terrorist or an attacker because the right of the person being attacked outweighs the attacker. Additionally, we are permitted to put a convicted criminal to death. My opponent recognizes this in the description by showing that there are some cases where it should be legal. Thus my opponent cannot cite the right to life as an absolute. 

IV. Pregnancy is risky

Whenever there is significant risk, there must be choice. For example, we know that it is wrong to force someone to donate their kidney or donate their blood regardless of how many lives that such policies may save. In the case of pregnancy, abortion is significantly safer than full birth. Indeed, researchers have found that “The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.” With such risks, it is vitally important to allow women the right to continue the pregnancy and the right to terminate it.

V. Abortion bans significantly harm women and public health

A. Abortion bans criminalize miscarriages

 In Alabama, a woman was indicted for manslaughter of the fetus despite the fact that she was shot [3]. Although prosecutors dropped the charges, this shows how abortion bans cause a dangerous slippery-slope that criminalizes miscarriages. In Mississippi, a woman was charged with murder when her baby was stillborn despite the lack of evidence that her cocaine use caused the fetus’ death [4]. By banning abortions, there will be far more cases like these. Overzealous prosecutors will undoubtedly use such laws to investigate miscarriages.

B. Abortion bans force women to give birth to their rapist’s babies

My opponent’s plan does nothing to address what happens in the case of rape. If my opponent’s plan goes through, 10-year-old girls could be forced to give birth against their will. In Ohio, for example, a court ruled that an 11-year-old girl to give birth after being raped [5] despite the fact that the WHO shows that child pregnancies are especially dangerous [6].

C. Abortion bans increase unsafe abortions

Abortion bans do nothing to prevent abortions, rather they prevent safe abortions. The unintended consequences of abortion bans cannot be overstated. Indeed, the WHO notes that more than 7 million women around the world are hospitalized each year as a result of unsafe abortions [7].

VI. Conclusion

In summary, the fetus is not a moral person and thus has no legal or philosophical right to life. Additionally, we must weigh policy decisions like these on the harm principle. Abortion bans are inherently harmful and thus should not be implemented.

Thus I conclude my opening statements.

=== Rebuttals ===

I will now rebut my opponent’s main arguments. I think I did most of that during my philosophical arguments.

VII. Characteristics of life

I fully agree that a new “life” is created at the zygote stage. I think that is undeniable. However, just because it is alive doesn’t mean that it is a person nor does it mean that it has a right to life as I’ve shown in the first section of my arguments.

VIII. Humanity of the zygote

Obviously correct, but it is still not a legal person and is an unconscious entity.

IX. My body, my choice

My opponent misunderstands what “my body, my choice” means. “My body” obviously means that the zygote/fetus is part of the body and is entirely dependent on the mother’s body. Just like it’s morally permissible to expel harmful bacteria from your body, it is morally permissible to expel a fetus from your body.

X. Person-hood of the child

See my opening statements.

XI. Rights of Man

No rights are absolute, including the right to life as I’ve clearly shown.

I now turn it over to my opponent. Please vote con.

XII. Sources

Round 3
Congratulations on your promotion to chief moderator by the way.

First, my opponent has conceded that he supports killing a human life.

Moving on to his contention one A

The conditions for moral personhood

  • I reject wholesale the notion that simply because you are dependent on someone else for survival (even someone else's body) that you are therefore disqualified from moral personhood. I need my opponent to explain exactly why that is. After all, If I'm in a coma I am reliant on a doctor's body to keep me alive. But the law and the harm principle my opponent uses in his framework insists that I not be randomly murdered by a passerby. Why then is personhood denied to a fetus in a similar situation?
  • I also reject the idea that moral personhood is determined via sapience. Note that I already addressed this argument preemptively in my first post and my opponent did not provide even a singular rebuttal. This argument creates an internal logical inconsistency wherein we should be able to stab comatose patients but as I said before my opponent's own framework precludes this possibility. At least I hope that my opponent doesn't think that it's acceptable to murder a comatose person seeing as it's horrendously immoral and violates his own framework.

The violinist

The oft-cited thought exercise of the famous violinist is in many ways fundamentally flawed. most egregiously, It assumes that you have no connection to the violinist and had nothing to do with his condition. You were just randomly kidnapped by the music appreciation gang and hooked up to machines for nine months. This is not the case in the vast majority of pregnancies. Consider these changes to the thought exercise and how they impact the moral calculus. First, the violinist is not a stranger, he's your son. And he didn't just randomly come down with a medical condition, something you did caused it. Now, as a parent, you have a moral obligation not to allow your own son to die because of your mistakes. Moreover, in my opponent's version of the thought exercise, affirmative action was taken by the music appreciation gang to put you in that situation. In reality, affirmative action was taken. But in the overwhelming majority of cases that affirmative action was taken by you. You hooked yourself up to the violinist and are now wanting out killing your own son in the process.

Let’s consider that a person volunteers to be plugged into this violinist. Would it be morally permissible for that person to change their mind and unplug that person? I’m sure that we would agree that yes, it is morally permitted.
No, we don't agree on that. Not at all. If you voluntarily become someone else's only chance at life then you don't get to just revoke your consent and kill them. You made your decision and now you have to live with it. It's like if you agreed to give someone else a kidney then the kidney you kept starts to fail, you are not morally justified in carving your old kidney out of the recipient.

Let’s move onto point 2. An entity should only be considered a person if it has consciousness. Again, I think we can agree on that. A frozen embryo, while being fully genetically a human, should certainly not be considered a legal or moral person because it is unconscious.
No, we don't agree on that and you still haven't explained why personhood is tied to consciousness. Only asserted that it is.

The right to life is not absolute

every single one of the examples my opponent gives has one common factor. They are all one person taking action to harm another or threatening to harm another. A fetus is not attacking the mother. They aren't a convicted murderer and they aren't threatening to kill the president. While the right to life is indeed not absolute, the fetus does not meet the criteria necessary for its forfeiture. As for my own position, I hold that both the life of the mother and the right of the fetus are equal. In the face of imminent death as a result of pregnancy, it is appropriate for the mother to choose her own life over the life of the fetus. But in the overwhelming majority of pregnancies (virtually all in the U.S.), this is not the case.

pregnancy is risky

In short, no it's not. of the 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017, 700 resulted in death. that's 0.01% and most of those were not due to the inherent risks of pregnancy but rather to negligence on the part of doctors. My opponent even states that choice is required when there is a significant risk. a 0.01% chance is not significant.

abortion criminalizes miscarriages.

Nonsense. My opponent can point to no abortion law that says miscarriages are illegal and the examples he gave have nothing to do with abortion. As for his first example where a woman was shot my opponent has neglected to provide the full story. So I will. Referencing my opponent's own source we see that the woman in question assaulted someone when she was 5 months pregnant. In the course of the fight, the fetus was killed. In Alabama, fetuses have rights. This is legally no different than if you start a fight and a random passerby is caught in the crossfire and killed which has robust legal precedent. It had nothing to do with abortion laws. This was a dishonest distortion of the truth. My opponent wanted you to believe that this woman was the victim of assault and prosecutors wanted to charge her for the death of the fetus because of abortion laws. Which is not what happened and is not what his source says. As for the second case, this is less indicative of abortion laws and more drug laws. She was not charged because a random stillbirth happened. She was charged because it was possible that her cocaine habit killed her baby. Which is the same as I said before. My opponent is attempting to use a slippery slope logical fallacy and is manipulating the truth to fit his argument. There is nothing here to suggest that random miscarriages will be criminalized if abortion is criminalized. That's utter nonsense.

abortion bans force rapists babies to be born.

Yes. Absolutely. Because we don't kill people for what their parents did. This is the fundamental disconnect between our two positions. You see two people. Rapist and victim. I see three. Rapist, victim, and baby. Rape is evil and those men that commit it should face the harshest penalties constitutionally permissible. Babies are not evil and had no part in their mothers assault. As such it is a further act of evil to kill them for their father's crime.

Abortion bans create unsafe abortions

We as a society cannot condone the slaughter of millions of babies because some women might choose to foolishly and dangerously kill their offspring themselves. As sordid as that may sound, it's true. Just because someone breaking the law to pursue an immoral course of action might be dangerous does not mean that we as a society should condone that act and allow it to happen legally on a massive scale. The best we can do is educate women on the dangers of illegal abortions so they won't pursue that course of action and will instead carry their children to term then give them up for adoption or raise the child. Or, they could just not have sex. Then the vast majority of the time they don't have to worry about it.

my body my choice

I already refuted my opponent's claims in previous arguments which my opponent dropped. specifically his argument that the fetus is a part of the mother's body which is scientific nonsense. If it's not your body then it's not your choice. And I've already proven that it's not your body.

My opponent's rebuttals.

In his rebuttals, he concedes most of my case and drops most of the rest.

He concedes my scientific argument in its entirety and drops my personhood arguments. Merely stating the opposite position and ignoring all of my arguments that directly refute yours is not a valid argument. As for the Rights of Man, see my previous statements. 

The current legal status of unborn children is of no consequence as the changing of that status is the subject of debate.


Round 4
Extend my arguments.
Sorry, I got really busy with classwork. I'm gonna forfeit this debate and hope we can re-do this some other time. 
Round 5
I accept my opponents forfeit.
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