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Each response should be at least 150 words.

  1. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to state the argument in logically valid form so that it’s clear and obvious what the conclusion of the argument is, what the premises are, and how they lead to the conclusion. Explain whether you think this is argument is sound or not and why.
  2. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument ethics and animals–specifically the ethics of raising and killing animals to eat them, at least in societies where non-animal-based foods are readily available–from the course materials. Try to state the argument in logically valid form so that it’s clear and obvious what the conclusion of the argument is, what the premises are, and how they lead to the conclusion. Explain whether you think this is argument is sound or not and why.

Below is another students’ discussion posts and respond in Prompt #1 write a least 60 words on whether and why you agree or disagree with what they said.

Prompt #1:Abortion is okay because Women should have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies. If they want to have an abortion then that is their personal decision. I think that it is a sound argument. If they have the moral right then the premise is true that abortion is ok. The premises are that Abortion is okay and the reason is because woman should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies let’s say they are raped or in a really bad relationship and were not allowed to do such a thing then they are stuck with an unwanted attachment. They have the moral right to make this decision and because of this they are not wrong morally which means that it is ok for them to decide to have an abortion. I believe that these arguments are sound and this is why abortion a choice that a women should be allowed to make.

UNIT 5 QUIZ

1.    “Question-begging” arguments are arguments where the premise(s) assume the conclusion: they are a type of circular reasoning. What is an example of a question-begging argument about abortion? Why is it question-begging?

2.    State an interesting argument, from the course materials, for the conclusion that abortion is usually wrong. Attempt to state the argument as a logically valid argument. Explain whether and why it is sound or not, that is, whether each premise is true or false and why.

3.    State an interesting argument, from the course materials, for the conclusion that abortion is usually not wrong. Attempt to state the argument as a logically valid argument. Explain whether and why it is sound or not, that is, whether each premise is true or false and why.

4.    State an interesting argument, from the course materials, for the conclusion that it is wrong to raise and kill animals for food when there are non-animal-based foods available. Attempt to state the argument as a logically valid argument. Explain whether and why it is sound or not, that is, whether each premise is true or false and why.

5.    State an interesting argument, from the course materials, for the conclusion that it is not wrong to raise and kill animals for food when there are non-animal-based foods available, or an objection to the arguments given for vegetarianism or veganism. Attempt to state the argument as a logically valid argument. Explain whether and why it is sound or not, that is, whether each premise is true or false and why.

Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
Skip to content 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Philosophy, One Thousand Words at a Time  Menu About Newest Essays Teaching All Essays Submissions The Ethics of Abortion 7 March 20163 February 2022~ 1000wordphilosophy Author: Nathan NobisCategory: EthicsWord Count: 1000 Abortion involves the intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy. These fetuses are human, biologically.1 It seems that fetuses are beings, although completely dependent beings: what else would they be? So, abortion involves the killing of a being that is biologically human. Killing human beings is often deeply wrong, so is abortion wrong? If so, when? And why? Here we will review some influential philosophical answers to these questions. 1. Human Organisms? Fetuses are not just biologically alive. And they aren’t just biologically human either, like skin cells or organs. They are biologically human organisms. Some thinkers argue that our being human organisms physically continuous with fetuses that were human organisms makes abortion wrong.2 They seem to argue that since it is wrong to kill us now, i.e., we have properties that make it wrong to kill us now (prima facie wrong to kill: wrong unless extreme circumstances justify the killing), it was wrong to kill us at any stage of our development, since we’ve been the same organism, the same being, throughout our existence. While this argument is influential in some circles, it is nevertheless dubious. You are likely over three feet tall now, but weren’t always. You can reason morally, but couldn’t always. You have the right to make autonomous decisions about your own life, but didn’t always. Many examples show that just because we have some characteristic, including a moral right now, that doesn’t entail that we (or our bodies?) have always had that characteristic or right. This argument’s advocates need to plausibly explain why that’d be different with, say, the right to life.3 2. (Human) Persons? We, readers of this essay, are human beings (unless there are any divine or extraterrestrial readers!), and it is prima facie wrong to kill us. Is the reason why it wrong to kill us because we are human beings? Perhaps not. It is wrong to kill us, arguably, because killing us prevents us from experiencing the goods of our future: accomplishments, relationships, enjoying our lives and so on, which is distinct from being a human being. Many philosophers describe these capacities needed for experiencing our lives, present and future, in terms of us being persons.4 A theory present from at least the time of John Locke can be expressed roughly as: persons are beings with personalities: persons are conscious beings with thoughts, feelings, memories, anticipations and other psychological states. (When people insist that fetuses aren’t human beings, they might be claiming that they are not human persons). If we die or even become permanently comatose, we cease to be persons, since we permanently lose consciousness. This theory of personhood has explanatory power: it helps us understand why we are persons and how we (or our bodies) can cease to be persons. It justifies a growing belief that some non-human animals are (non-human) persons. It explains why rational space aliens, if there are any, would be (non-human) persons. It explains why divine or spiritual beings are or would be (non-human) persons. On this theory of personhood, beginning fetuses are not persons. This is because their brains and nervous systems aren’t sufficiently developed and complexly interconnected enough for consciousness and personhood. The medical and scientific research reports that this developmental stage isn’t reached until after the first trimester, or, more likely, until mid-pregnancy.5 Nearly all abortions occur very early in pregnancy, killing fetuses that are not yet conscious, and so are not yet persons on this theory of personhood. Any later abortions, affecting conscious and feeling fetuses who are persons or close to it, however, would likely be wrong on this theory, however, unless done for a justifying medical reason. 3. Potential Personhood? But just because something (or someone) is not a person, that doesn’t obviously mean that it is not wrong to kill it. If fetuses aren’t persons, they are still potential persons. (And merely potential persons are never actual persons).  Does that potential give fetuses, say, the right to life or otherwise make it wrong to kill them? If potential things have the rights of actual things, then potential adults, spouses, criminals, doctors, and judges would have the rights of actual ones. Since they don’t, it is plausible that potential personhood doesn’t yield the rights of actual personhood. At least, we are due an explanation of why it would, since potentiality never does that for anything else. 4. Valuable Futures? Abortion might seem to prevent a fetus from experiencing its valuable future, just like killing us does, even if it is not yet a person.6 But our futures might be valuable, in part, because we can, presently, look forward to them. Fetuses have no awareness of their futures whatsoever, and this is one important difference between their futures and our futures. Further, an egg-and-a-sperm-that-would-fertilize-it arguably has a future akin to that of a fetus. Contraception (even by abstinence!) keeps this future from materializing.8 But contraception and abstinence aren’t wrong. Thus, it is not wrong to perform some action that prevents such a future from materializing. 5. The Right to Life? Finally, suppose these arguments are all wrong and all fetuses are persons with the right to life. Does that make abortion wrong? Not necessarily, Judith Thomson famously argued in her 1971 “A Defense of Abortion.”9 If I must use your kidney to stay alive, do I have a right to your kidney? No, and you don’t violate my rights if you don’t let me use it and I die. This shows that the right to life is not a right to bodies of others, even if those bodies are necessary for our lives to continue. Fetuses, then, might not have a right to the pregnant woman’s body and so she doesn’t violate their rights by not allowing a fetus to use it. If so, abortion wouldn’t violate any rights of fetuses and so it might be permissible. 6. Conclusion The philosophical issue of the moral status of abortion is complex: these are just a few philosophical arguments on the issue. Each argument, and many others, are worthy of further discussion and reasoned debate. Notes 1 Unless we are doing veterinary ethics and are thinking about aborting feline or canine or other non-human fetuses. 2 This argument is developed in Beckwith (2007), and in George and Tollefsen (2008). This presentation here is based on Beckwith’s emphasis that fetuses and the adults they often later become are the “same being.” These arguments, however, can be interpreted in a more complex way, in which we understand them as arguing that having rights, or the properties that result in having rights, is essential to living human organisms, and that we are, in essence, living human organisms (and not, in essence, say, either minds or souls), and so we have rights whenever living human organisms exist (and so since a fetus and the later adult are the “same being” they have rights whenever they exist). This more sophisticated argument is not discussed here.  3 This response is developed in Boonin (2003) and in Nobis (2011) 4 This influential theory of personhood is developed in Warren (1973). 5 Lee, Susan J., et al. (2005) and Benatar and Benatar (2001) 6 This argument is developed in Marquis (1989). 7 For development of these arguments, see McMahan (2002). 8 For development of these arguments, see Norcross (1990). 9 Thomson (1971) References Beckwith, Francis J. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice. Cambridge University Press, 2007 Benatar, David, and Michael Benatar. “A Pain in the Fetus: Toward Ending Confusion about Fetal Pain.” Bioethics 15 (2001): 57-76 Boonin, David. A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge University Press, 2003 George, Robert P. and Christopher Tollefsen. Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. Doubleday, 2008 Lee, Susan J., et al. “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence.” Jama 294.8 (2005): 947-954 Marquis, Don. “Why Abortion is Immoral.” The Journal of Philosophy 86.4 (1989): 183-202 McMahan, Jeff. The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life. Oxford University Press, 2002 Nobis, Nathan. “Abortion, Metaphysics and Morality: A Review of Francis Beckwith’s Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36.3 (2011): 261-273 Norcross, Alastair. “Killing, Abortion, and Contraception: A Reply to Marquis.”The Journal of Philosophy (1990): 268-277 Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy & Public Affairs(1971): 47-66 Warren, Mary Anne. “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion.” The Monist(1973): 43-61 Related Essays Applied Ethics by Chelsea Haramia Theories of Moral Considerability: Who and What Matters Morally? by Jonathan Spelman Personal Identity by Chad Vance Psychological Approaches to Personal Identity: Do Memories and Consciousness Make Us Who We Are? by Kristin Seemuth Whaley Are We Animals? Animalism and Personal Identity by Kristin Seemuth Whaley Is Death Bad? Epicurus and Lucretius on the Fear of Death by Frederik Kaufman The Badness of Death by Duncan Purves The Non-Identity Problem by Duncan Purves Principlism in Biomedical Ethics: Respect for Autonomy, Non-Maleficence, Beneficence, and Justice by G. M. Trujillo, Jr. About the Author Nathan Nobis is a Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA. He is the author of Animals & Ethics 101, co-author of Thinking Critically About Abortion, a co-author of Chimpanzee Rights and author or co-author of many other articles, chapters, and reviews in philosophy and ethics. www.NathanNobis.com Follow 1000-Word Philosophy on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to receive email notifications of new essays at the bottom of 1000WordPhilosophy.com Share this: Twitter Facebook Like this: Like Loading… Related Posted in Ethics, Metaphysicsabortionbioethicsmedical ethicsNobis Post navigation ‹ PreviousEthical Realism, or Moral Realism Next ›Divine Hiddenness 16 thoughts on “The Ethics of Abortion” Pingback: Pro-life or Pro-choice? – ishwarhegde Pingback: 千字哲學部落格中的幾篇新介紹(New Essays on 1000-Word Philosophy) | 法哲學、生活與實踐 Pingback: The Badness of Death – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: The Non-Identity Problem – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Origin Essentialism – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: 1,000-Word Philosophy: Philosophy for Everyone | Blog of the APA Pingback: Applied Ethics – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Speciesism – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Ethics: A Collection of Online Resources and Key Quotes – The Daily Idea Pingback: Personal Identity – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Ethics: A Collection of Online Resources and Key Quotes – The Daily Idea Pingback: Is Death Bad? Epicurus and Lucretius on the Fear of Death – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Principlism in Biomedical Ethics: Respect for Autonomy, Non-Maleficence, Beneficence, and Justice – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Are We Animals? Animalism and Personal Identity – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Theories of Moral Considerability: Who and What Matters Morally? – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Psychological Approaches to Personal Identity: Do Memories and Consciousness Make Us Who We Are? – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Comments are closed. 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Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
Skip to content 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Philosophy, One Thousand Words at a Time  Menu About Newest Essays Teaching All Essays Submissions Theories of Moral Considerability: Who and What Matters Morally? 1 January 202225 January 2022~ 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Author: Jonathan SpelmanCategory: EthicsWord count: 999 Listen here There is widespread agreement that adult humans deserve moral consideration,[1] which is to say, roughly, that when deciding whether to perform an action, we should take its effects on adult humans into account.[2]  But what else deserves moral consideration? Fetuses? Nonhuman animals? Plants? Ecosystems? Answering this question is important since it would help us answer ethical questions about abortion, animal testing, meat-eating, species management, and more. Below, we survey five theories of moral considerability.[3] They all accept that adult humans deserve moral consideration, but they disagree about why that is. As a result, they disagree about what else deserves moral consideration. Armed game wardens watch over an endangered northern white rhino at a nature conservancy in Kenya. 1. Ratiocentrism According to ratiocentrism, adult humans deserve moral consideration because they are rational (i.e., they act on reasons, not just on impulses or instincts).[4] Ratiocentrism has the plausible implication that if rational space aliens exist, they also deserve moral consideration. At the same time, it has the implausible implication that neither infants nor people with severe mental disabilities deserve moral consideration (since they aren’t rational, i.e., they don’t act on reasons). Ratiocentrists could respond to this worry by saying that what matters for moral considerability isn’t being rational but being potentially rational. On this view, infants and people with severe mental disabilities deserve moral consideration, not because of the capacities they have, but because of the capacities they could have. It is unclear, however, what it takes to be potentially rational. 2. Anthropocentrism Another response to the worry described above is to adopt anthropocentrism, the view that adult humans deserve moral consideration simply because they are biologically human. Since infants and people with severe mental disabilities are human, anthropocentrism can explain why they deserve moral consideration. But anthropocentrism also has a weakness; it seems to be speciesist. What is speciesism?[5] Speciesism was first proposed as an analogue of racism or sexism.[6] Racism and sexism are problematic because they use morally irrelevant features (viz., race and sex) to justify treating certain individuals (e.g., black people and women) worse than others (e.g., white people and men). Analogously, speciesism involves using a seemingly morally irrelevant feature (viz., species membership) to justify treating certain individuals (e.g., nonhuman animals) worse than others (viz., humans). Defending anthropocentrism against the charge of speciesism requires arguing either that species membership is morally relevant or that there is some other morally relevant feature that all and only humans have. The first route isn’t particularly promising as evidenced by the fact that if we found out that some small percentage of the “human” population were actually rational space aliens disguised as humans, we wouldn’t infer from this that they didn’t matter morally. Regarding the second route, there might be some morally relevant feature that all and only humans have; however, it’s hard to identify what that feature would be.[7] 3. Sentientism A third view of moral considerability, sentientism, is the view that adult humans deserve moral consideration because they are sentient (i.e., have conscious experiences).[8] Unlike ratiocentrism or anthropocentrism, sentientism is able to explain why it’s wrong to harm most nonhuman animals, even if they are unowned or unloved.[9] After all, kicking a stray dog seems to be wrong for the same reasons it’s wrong to kick people, namely, because kicking them is disrespectful and causes them pain.[10] One criticism of sentientism is that it implies that some of our current practices (e.g., industrial animal agriculture and the use of animals in biomedical research) are deeply problematic. But maybe that’s right. Maybe those practices are deeply problematic. 4. Biocentrism Some go even further and argue that all living organisms deserve moral consideration.[11] This view is biocentrism. Biocentrism can explain some intuitions that other theories cannot. Imagine that you’re the last person on Earth. Would it be wrong for you to chop down the last redwood tree, just for fun?[12] Many people think it would be wrong for you to do this, and it’s easy for biocentrism to explain why, because your doing so would be bad for a living thing. But biocentrism also has some implausible implications. For example, it seems to imply that it’s wrong to weed one’s flower beds. In response, biocentrists could argue that even though their theory entails that plants deserve moral consideration, it doesn’t entail that plants deserve the same kind or amount of moral consideration as humans.[13] 5. Ecocentrism Finally, according to ecocentrism, what deserves moral consideration isn’t individual beings but collectives or groups, specifically those that promote the flourishing of ecosystems (e.g., wolf packs and aspen groves). On ecocentrism, most individual plants and animals deserve moral consideration because they promote the flourishing of ecosystems. But not all individual plants and animals deserve moral consideration. Consider, for example, European rabbits, which were introduced into Australia in 1859.[14] Because they threatened the local ecosystem, ecocentrism entails that they didn’t deserve moral consideration and that Australians would have been justified in exterminating them.[15] Some see this implication of ecocentrism as a strength, but others see it as a weakness. In fact, some of ecocentrism’s opponents have noted that given the environmental degradation caused by humans, ecocentrism seems to have the implausible implication that it would be morally permissible to kill off a large percentage of the human population.[16] 6. Conclusion Theories of moral considerability can help us answer a variety of practical ethical questions, but they can’t answer those questions by themselves. For example, even if we knew that sentientism was true and, therefore, that nonhuman animals deserve moral consideration, we couldn’t know whether meat-eating was morally wrong without knowing whether nonhuman animals have rights or how to weigh their interests against the interests of the other things that deserve moral consideration. In order to answer these practical ethical questions, then, we would have to figure out not only who or what deserves moral consideration but also how to treat the things that deserve moral consideration. This requires combining theories of moral considerability, ethical theories, and an understanding of who or what is being considered. Notes [1] Some philosophers talk about “moral consideration” using the equivalent or closely related concepts of “moral standing” or “moral status.” The claim that all adult human beings deserve moral consideration has been denied throughout much (or most) of human history, but it is clear to us now that their reasons for doing so were not good ones. See, e.g., Dan Lowe’s Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery. [2] In technical terms, to say that adult humans deserve moral consideration is to say that they have inherent value or that they matter for their own sake. [3] In their strongest form, these theories purport to identify features that are necessary and sufficient for deserving moral consideration. However, these theories also come in weaker forms. So, whereas a strong version of anthropocentrism might say that being human is necessary and sufficient for deserving moral consideration, a weaker version might say simply that human beings deserve a special kind of moral consideration or a greater amount of it than other beings. [4] Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a paradigmatic example of a ratiocentrist. See Deontology: Kantian Ethics by Andrew Chapman for an introduction to Kant’s ethics. [5] For further discussion, see Speciesism by Dan Lowe. [6] In “The Moral Status of Animals,” Lori Gruen (2017) notes that the word “speciesism” was first coined by Richard Ryder but then popularized by Peter Singer in his article “All Animals Are Equal” (1974) and subsequent book Animal Liberation (1975/2009). [7] Give it a shot. Try to think of some feature that all and only humans have. My guess is that if all and only humans have the feature (e.g., human DNA), then it probably isn’t morally relevant. Alternatively, if it is morally relevant (e.g., intelligence), then it probably isn’t something that all and only humans have. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that humans aren’t special. It just means that even if humans are special, it doesn’t follow that they are the only things that deserve moral consideration. [8] Jeremy Bentham, an early sentientist, famously expressed this view in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, writing, “The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. … The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (1789/1988: 311). [9] I say “most” here because whether some animals (e.g., insects) are sentient is controversial, and others (e.g., bivalves) are widely thought not to be sentient. [10] Tom Regan (1985) makes this sort of argument. [11] Paul Taylor (2011) and Gary Varner (1998) advance versions of biocentrism. [12] Richard Routley (1973) famously proposed a thought experiment along these lines. [13] Biocentrists could, for example, draw a distinction between various kinds of interests and then argue that the satisfaction of certain kinds of interests (e.g., psychological interests) matters more than the satisfaction of other kinds of interests (e.g., biological interests). [14] See “Rabbits introduced.” [15] Aldo Leopold, probably the most well-known ecocentrist, famously wrote, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong if it tends otherwise” (2020: 211). Since exterminating European rabbits would have promoted the integrity, stability, and beauty of the local ecosystem, Leopold’s land ethic entails that exterminating them would have been not only morally permissible, but morally right. [16] Ronald Sandler (2017: 261) raises this worry. References Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Prometheus Books, 1789/1988. Gruen, Lori. “The Moral Status of Animals.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition). Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2017.   Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. Oxford University Press, 1948/2020. “Rabbits introduced.” National Museum Australia. 13 August 2020. Regan, Tom. “The Case for Animal Rights.” In Defense of Animals. Edited by Peter Singer, Basil Blackwell, 1985, pp. 13-26. Routley, Richard. “Is There a Need for a New, an Environmental, Ethic?” Proceedings of the XVth World Congress of Philosophy 1, no. 6 (1973): 205-210. Sandler, Ronald. Environmental Ethics: Theory in Practice. Oxford University Press, 2017. Singer, Peter. “All Animals Are Equal.” Philosophical Exchange 5, no. 1 (1974): pp. 103-116. Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement (Updated Edition). Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1975/2009. Taylor, Paul. Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics. Princeton University Press, 1986/2011. Varner, Gary. In Nature’s Interests? Interests, Animal Rights, and Environmental Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1998. Related Essays Applied Ethics by Chelsea Haramia Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery by Dan Lowe Deontology: Kantian Ethics by Andrew Chapman Consequentialism by Shane Gronholz Speciesism by Dan Lowe The Ethics of Abortion by Nathan Nobis The Moral Status of Animals by Jason Wyckoff Free Will and Moral Responsibility by Chelsea Haramia Acknowledgements Thanks to the editors of 1000-Word Philosophy for their helpful comments on earlier drafts PDF Download Download this essay in PDF.  About the Author Jonathan Spelman is an assistant professor of philosophy at Ohio Northern University. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Colorado Boulder, and he specializes in ethics. When he’s not doing philosophy, he enjoys taking photos and spending time with his family. JonathanSpelman.com  Follow 1000-Word Philosophy on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to receive email notifications of new essays at 1000WordPhilosophy.com Share this: Twitter Facebook Like this: Like Loading… Related Posted in EthicsAnthropocentrismbiocentrismEcocentrismenvironmental ethicsmoral considerabilitymoral standingmoral statusRatiocentrismsentientismspeciesismSpelman Post navigation ‹ PreviousCultural Relativism: Do Cultural Norms Make Actions Right and Wrong? Next ›Agnosticism about God’s Existence 7 thoughts on “Theories of Moral Considerability: Who and What Matters Morally?” Pingback: Applied Ethics – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: The Moral Status of Animals – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Speciesism – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: The Ethics of Abortion – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Pingback: Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology says: 10 January 2022 at 9:52 AM Shared here: https://dailynous.com/2022/01/10/online-philosophy-resources-weekly-update-276/ Pingback: Psychological Approaches to Personal Identity: Do Memories and Consciousness Make Us Who We Are? – 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology Comments are closed. 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Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
1 Reasonable Humans and Animals By John Simmons, Ph.D. Philosophy Department, Addison College, NH “It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of o ur grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselv es. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own v iews, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices a mong the beliefs and values we hold.” – Peter Singer “It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak again st the strong, something the best people have always done.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe In my 8 or so years experience of teaching philosop hy, ethics and logic courses, I have found that no topic bring s out the rational and emotional best and worst in people than ethical questions about the treatment of animals. This is n ot surprising since, unlike questions about social policy and abo ut what other people should do, moral questions about animals are personal . As philosopher Peter Singer has observed, “For most human beings, especially in modern urban and s uburban communities, the most direct form of contact with n on-human animals is at mealtimes: we eat them.” 1 For most of us, then, our own behavior is challenged when we reflect on t he reasons given to think that change is needed in our treatme nt of, and attitudes toward, animals. That the issue is person al presents unique challenges, and great opportunities, for int ellectual and moral progress. Here I present some of the reasons given for and ag ainst taking animals seriously and reflect on the role of reason in our lives. I examine the common assumption that there is nothing wrong with harming animals — causing them pain, suffering, and an early death – so they might be ea ten. We will see if moral “common sense” in this area can s urvive critical scrutiny. Our method, useful for better un derstanding all ethical debates, is to identify unambiguous and precise moral conclusions and make all the reasons in favor of the conclusion explicit, leaving no assumption unstated . Harms and Reasons Why is the treatment of animals a moral issue? Plut arch suggested an answer nearly two thousand years ago w hen he reflected on the killing of animals for food: But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh w e deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into t he world to enjoy. The simple answer is that animals are harmed by the practices required to bring them to our plates, and harms need rational defense. Chickens, pigs, cows, and other a nimals are conscious, can feel pleasure and pain, and their li ves can go better or worse, from their own point of view. Rais ing and killing them is bad for them: they experience pain, suffering, deprivation, boredom and an early death. Everything is taken 1 Peter Singer, Animal Liberation , 3 rd Ed. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002), p. 95. from them so that they might be eaten. And this is true regardless of the conditions they are raised in. Let us consider the common view that, even though it’s true that animals are harmed (indeed greatly harmed) by the practices required for meat eating, these practices are morally permissible nevertheless. We will see that common arguments for this perspective all have premises that are either false or in need of serious defense. The methods used in responding to these arguments will prove useful for addressing further arguments and objections beyond those discussed here. Defending Tradition One of the first things said is that it’s not wrong to harm animals for food because it’s a “tradition”: it’s s omething we do, and have done, for a long time. True, for many peop le, eating animals is a tradition. But not all traditions are good or ri ght: the important question is always whether an aspect of a tradition can be supported by good moral reasons or not. Also, fo r many people, eating animals is not a tradition: for thousands of years there have been people who extend their compassion to animals, and many other people who were raised eating animal s start new traditions when they see that consistency and moral reasoning demands change. Second, some people say that it’s “natural” to rais e and kill animals to eat them, so it’s right. But the meaning of “natural” is extremely obscure: people can mean very different t hings when they use the term. Whatever meaning one uses, howev er, it’s very hard to see how modern, industrial methods of facto ry farming, transport and slaughter are at all “natural.” It’s not even clear how an individual’s raising and killing, say, a pig or a chicken in her backyard would be “natural” either. But the relationship between what’s “natural,” in any sense of the term, and what’s morally right does not help th is argument. Selfishness and cruelty are often quite “natural,” but they are not right or good. Walking on one’s hands is a quite “u nnatural” way to transport oneself, but it’s usually not wrong to do so. Some “natural” behaviors are right, but many are deeply wrong, and advocates of this argument forget that simple point . Whether something is “natural” or not is irrelevant to its morality. Third, some people insist that it’s nutritionally necessary to eat meat, milk and eggs and, therefore, it’s right that animals are raised and killed to be eaten. But this argument ig nores common sense and disrespects medical science. If it were t rue that we have to eat meat and other animal products, then there w ould be no people who abstain from doing do so because they wo uld all be dead. But there are such people, alive and well, an d medical science supplements common observations with eviden ce to show that they are often healthier than omnivores. 2 Consider the position statement of the leading authority on nutr ition in North America based on their seventeen-page review of the recent nutrition research: It is the position of the American Dietetic Associa tion and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned veg etarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and pr ovide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. . . Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, inclu ding during 2 pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. . . A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet cu rrent recommendations for all of these nutrients. . . Veg etarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, inclu ding lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and ani mal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians ha ve been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death fro m ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. 3 So this defense of eating animals is either ignoran t of, or disrespectful towards, the huge (and growing) body of research that shows the health benefits from eating a diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grai ns, and ignores the growing literature detailing the variet y of harms for humans that can result from the production and consumption of animal products. 4 This argument thus has a false empirical premise: it is not supported by sci ence and medical research. A pattern is emerging, and we can use it to make a point about how to critically respond to reasoning given in ethics. There are two useful critical ways to respond to mo ral arguments: an “Oh yeah?” response, and a “So what?” response. The former “Oh yeah?” response denies the truth of the premise and the latter “So what?” response deni es the truth of the (often unstated) assumption needed to validl y reach the conclusion. We can see these helpful responses in a ction by considering more arguments in favor of harming anim als. A fourth argument is based in the claim that “meat tastes good” or that it is pleasurable to eat it. But so what? Just because something causes pleasure doesn’t make it r ight. We do not think that pleasures automatically justify harming humans: if things are different in the animal case, we need reasons to see why this would be so. And, besides, there are many other pleasure-producing cuisines (often they are ethnic) to choose from that aren’t based on animal products anyway. A fifth argument is based on someone’s claiming tha t he or she “just couldn’t give up meat or dairy product s or eggs.” Oh yeah? Since so many other people have given these up, or never ate them in the first place, this claim is li kely disingenuous. And since this person probably hasn’t even tried changing his or her diet for moral reasons, he or s he likely lacks the evidence needed to confidently make that judgment. Sixth, people claim that animals eat other animals, so it’s right for us to do. Oh yeah? Only some animals eat other animals, and these are not chickens, pigs or cows. And so 3 “Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2003;103:748-765. At http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/adv ocacy_933_ENU _HTML.htm . 4 Eric Schlosser’s book and film Fast Food Nation vividly portrays the harms done to (immigrant) workers in slaughterh ouses, as does Gail Eisnitz’s Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglec t, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industr y. what? Many animals do lots of things that we wouldn’t wa nt to do, and should not do (e.g., eat their own excremen t and, sometimes, their young), so why should we imitate a nimals in only some ways, but not others? A principled response is needed for this argument to have any force. Sometimes people say that we are animals, thinking that this justifies our killing and eating animals. But it do es not: just because we are animals does not mean that it’s morally right for us to do all the other things that other animals do; above we s aw many things that (some) animals do that would be wr ong for us to do. And if we are animals, we are unique animals wi th the ability to reason about the morality of our actions, in lig ht of their consequences for others. Should not we use this rea son to do what reduces harms to animals and ourselves? Seventh, people say eating meat is “convenient.” Oh yeah? Many meat-based dishes are inconvenient to prepare, and plant- based dishes are usually as convenient as eating meat anyway. It’s just a matter of choosing something else from the s ame menu or same grocery store. But since doing the right thing sometimes requires our being inconvenienced in minor (and som etimes major) ways, so what? Eighth, it is sometimes said that we have a right to treat animals these ways, and that animals have no rights to not be treated these ways. That might be true, but reasona ble people want reasons for why they should think that. First, they will w ant to know what “right” is under consideration. Suppos e it’s the right to not be caused to suffer and die for someone else ’s pleasure. Is it because animals don’t do math problems, write no vels or make moral decisions that they don’t have this right? If so, since babies and many other humans don’t (and, for some, can’t) do these things, this view about moral rights denies them ri ghts also. Is it because animals are not biologically human that they lack the right to not be harmed for others? Interes tingly, nearly all philosophers who have considered these issues rejec t this kind of theory: on their views, the fact that we are biolog ically human has little to do with what we are owed, morally. This h ypothesis is confirmed, in part, by each of us asking us what it is about ourselves that, e.g., makes it such that it would be wrong to cause us pain and kill us. For most people, the obvious e xplanation is that this would hurt greatly, we would suffer enorm ously and our early deaths would prevent us from experiencing all the good things we (hopefully) would have experienced. It’s not because of some genes we have or where we are on some chart in a biology book that explains our moral status; rather, it is a matter of our vulnerability to physical and/or psychological harm . But since many animals are also vulnerable to such harms, these animals seem to be due the respect due to, at least, comparably-minded humans. Since this respect requires not raising and killing these humans for the mere pleasures of eating them, rational consistency requires the same treatm ent for chickens, cows, pigs and other animals who often ha ve far richer mental lives than many humans. Farming Facts These are just a few of the more common arguments g iven in defense of raising and killing animals for food. Th e fact that they are all quite weak suggests that people’s resistanc e to change regarding these issues might be based on non-ration al influences, not critical thinking and unbiased inquiry. But the fact that a strong defense of the status quo is lacking does not give us yet enough positive reason to think that animals are tr eated wrongly. 3 To see these reasons, we must consider in brief detail how are animals are harmed so that they might be served on our plates. The treatment of animals in farms and slaughterhous es has been well documented by all major print and television media. 5 On both “factory” and the few remaining “family” farms, baby animals are castrated, branded, ear and tail- docked, and teeth are pulled, all without (costly) anesthesia. “Veal” calves, the male by-products of the dairy in dustry, spend their entire life individually chain at the n eck and confined to narrow stalls too narrow for them to tu rn around in. “Broiler” chickens, due to selective breeding a nd growth- promoting drugs, are killed at forty five days. Suc h fast growth causes chickens to suffer from a number of c hronic health problems, including leg disorders and heart disease. “Layer” hens live a year or more in cages the size of a filing drawer, seven or more per cage, after which they ro utinely are starved for two weeks (“force molted”) to encourage another laying cycle. Female hogs are housed for four or fi ve years in individual barred enclosures (“gestation stalls”) b arely wider than their bodies, where they are forced to birth l itter after litter. Until the recent “Mad Cow” scare, beef and dairy cattle too weak to stand (“downers”) were dragged or pushe d to their slaughter. 6 Many people would describe the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses as simply brutal: the title of a 20 01 Washington Post entitled “The Die Piece by Piece: In Overtaxed Plants, Humane Treatment of Cattle is Oft en a Battle Lost,” is suggestive of standard operating p rocedures in American slaughterhouses; more recent stories revea l similar inhumane conditions. A 2004 New York Times story documented workers at a chicken slaughterhouse stom ping on chickens, kicking them, and violently slamming them against floors and walls. Those attentive to the news media see stories like this all too often. One hopes that this treatment is not routine, but t here are is good reason to be skeptical of claims that it is not. After all, there are no laws protecting farmed animals, since they are explicitly excluded from the Animal Welfare Act. Th e Act says that, “the term ‘animal’ … excludes horses n ot used for research purposes and other farm animals, such as, but not limited to, livestock or poultry, used or intended for food.” Reasonable Ethics So should we think that the harmful treatment of an imals in farms and slaughterhouses is wrong and should no t be supported? This conclusion follows only when moral principles are conjoined with facts about animal agribusiness and, perhaps, the fact that we do not need to eat a nimal products to survive and thrive. Fortunately, complex moral thinking is not needed t o find plausible principles to apply to this case. The sim ple, but powerful, “common sense” principle that we should avoid inflicting and supporting needless harm is all that is needed, 5 For reviews of this media coverage, see, among man y other sources, Dawn Animal World News Watch ( www.DawnWatch.com ) and Vegan Outreach ’s E-newsletter ( www.veganoutreach.org/enewsletter ). 6 For documentation and further information, see the literature produced by Vegan Outreach ( www.VeganOutreach.org ) and Compassion Over Killing ( www.COK.net and www.TryVeg.com ). and is supported by a wide range of theoretical per spectives – secular and religious – in ethics (in fact, nearly all of them). These theories urge that we should promote goodness and l essen badness or evil, respect all beings who are conscious and sentient (not just those who are “rational”), treat others as we would like to be treated, and otherwise promoting caring, compassion ate, sympathetic, sensitive and fair attitudes and behav ior. All of these theories condemn the practices of contemporary anim al agribusiness. This is true of both secular and religious moral po ints of view. About Christianity, It is very doubtful that Jesus – who advocated compassion, love and mercy – would suppor t the needless killing of animals for pleasure. Christian theologians and philosophers have carefully engaged these issues an d have argued that theology, the Bible and critical thinking abou t God’s will likely supports such compassion. 7 For those who insist that God supports killing animals for the pleasure of eating them, we need to ask them, first, how they might know that and, s econd, what reasons God would have for advocating eating animals, espe cially since it is often nutritional harmful for humans. Perspectives that deny that we should avoid inflict ing needless harm typically degenerate into infantile “ might-makes- right” moral theories or they falsely imply that it ’s only because “rational agents” care about non-rational beings (h umans and animals) that it’s be wrong to harm these beings. T his latter thought is mistaken because it’s wrong to harm thes e beings because they can be harmed , not because harming them would upset us. Thus, it seems that reasonable humans (all of whom have to eat and can easily choose animal-free foods; they cannot claim they are “too busy” to refrain from eating animals or that there are “more important things” to do, so they therefore must eat animals) should broaden their serious moral concern to include conscious, sentient beings who are not human: reasonable peopl e should not eat animals, since this is what the best moral reas ons support. One final response to arguments for vegetarianism i s a response common to many arguments about issues that challenge how we live our lives: “People are going to believe whatever they want to believe, and people are going to do whatever they want to do.” It’s important to realize that this response i s lamentable: it’s an evasion of the issues, since it does not engage the arguments. For this issue, it’s an attempt to avoid rational e ngagement with uncomfortable questions about the lives and deaths of, each years, tens of billions of conscious, feeling beings. Those who are committed to the value of reason in g uiding our beliefs, attitudes, and even our feelings shoul d discourage this response, and promote reasonableness in all things, not just a select few, personally-convenient, topics. They sho uld do this also because this response is false: people sometimes do change their beliefs and behaviors, and on the basis of good rea sons. This is true about many issues, and confronting ethical iss ues about animals can often help us better see this for, and in, ourselves. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand s in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he st ands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King Jr. 7 See The Christian Vegetarian Association at www.ChristianVeg.com for an overview of this discussion and literature.
Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
Thinking Critically About Abortion Why Most Abortions Aren’t Wrong & Why All Abortions Should Be Legal Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob Thinking Critically About Abortion Why Most Abortions Aren’t Wrong & Why All Abortions Should Be Legal NATHAN NOBIS & KRISTINA GROB Open Philosophy Press 2019 This text is available at AbortionArguments.com This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY) License . You are free to: Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format; Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the mat erial for any purpose, even commercially , u nder the following terms: Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. Cover art: Vincent Van Gogh’s The Good Samaritan (1890) ISBN -13: 978 -0-578 -53263 -9 ISBN -10: 0 -578 -53263 -8 iii PREFACE We are both philosophy professors who regularly teach ethics classes that cover the topic of abortion. In classes like these, students learn how to better define the issues, develop skills to systematically explain why some arguments are better and others are worse, and practice seriously and respectfully engag ing with ideas different from their own. We wrote this book to help make the many goods of philosophical thinking more readily available to everyone, given our society’s current need for better discus sions of abortion. To many people, abortion is an issue for which discussions and debates are frustrating and fruitless: it seems like no progress will ever be made towards any understanding, much less resolution or even compromise. Judgments like these, however, are premature because some basic techniques from critical thinking , such as carefully defining words and testing definitions, stating the full structure of arguments so each step of the reasoning can be examined, and comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different explanations can help us make progress towards these goals . When emotions run high, we sometimes need to step back and use a passion for calm, cool, critical thinking. This helps us better understand the positions and arguments of people who see things differently from us, as well as our own positions and arguments. And we can use critical thinking skills help to try to figure out which positions are best, in terms of being supported by goo d arguments: after all, we might have much to learn from other people, sometimes that our own views should change, for the better. Here we use basic critical thinking skills to argue that abortion is typically not morally wrong. We begin with less morally – THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION iv controversial claims: adults, children and babies are wrong to kill and wrong to kill, fundamentally, because they, we , are conscious, aware and have feelings. We argue that since early fetuses entirely lack these characteristics, they are not inherently wrong to kill and so most abortions are not morally wrong, since most abortions are done early in pregnancy, before consciousness and feeling develop in the fetus. Furthermore, since the right to life is not the right to someone else’s body , fetuses might not have the right to the pregnant woman’s body — which she has the right to — and so she has the right to not allow the fetus use of her body. This further justifies abortion, at least until technology allows for the removal of fetuses to other wombs. Since morally permissible actions should be legal, abortions should be legal: it is an injustice to criminaliz e actions that are not wrong. In the course of arguing for these claims, we: (1) discuss how to best define abortion; (2) dismiss many common “question -beg ging” arguments that merely assume their conclusions, instead of giving genuine reasons for them; (3) refute some often -heard “everyday arguments” about abortion, on all sides; (4) explain why the most influential philosophical arguments against abortion are uns uccessful; (5) provide some positive arguments that at least early abortions are not wrong; (6) briefly discuss the ethics and legality of later abortions, and more. This essay is not a “how to win an argument” piece or a tract or any kind of apologetics. It is not designed to help anyone “win” v debates: everybody “wins” on this issue when we calmly and respectfully engage arguments with care, charity, honesty and humility. This book is merely a reasoned, systematic introduction to the issues that we hope models these skills and virtues. Its discussion should not be taken as absolute “proof” of anything: much more needs to be understood and carefully discussed — always . vii CONTENTS 1 Introduction ………………………….. ………………………….. ………….. 1 2 Defining “Abortion” ………………………….. ………………………….. 5 2.1 “Murdering Babies” ………………………….. …………………….. 5 2.2 “Termina tion” ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 8 2.3 “Killing” ………………………….. ………………………….. ………. 10 3 Fetal Consciousness & Facts about Abortions ………………….. 11 3.1 Fetal Consciousness ………………………….. …………………… 11 3.2 When Most Abortions Occur ………………………….. ………. 13 3.3 Why Most Abortions Occur ………………………….. ………… 14 4 Bad Arguments: “Question -Begging” Arguments & “Everyday” Arguments ………………………….. …………………….. 17 4.1 “Question -Begging” Arguments ………………………….. ….. 17 4.1.1 “Against” Abortion: ………………………….. …………….. 17 4.1.2 “For” Abortion: ………………………….. …………………… 19 4.2 “Everyday” Arguments ………………………….. ………………. 21 4.2.1 “Against” Abortion ………………………….. ………………. 21 4.2.1.1 “Abortion ends a life.” ………………………….. ……. 21 4.2.1.2 “Abortion kills babies and children.” ……………. 22 4.2.1.3 “Abortion is murder.” ………………………….. …….. 23 4.2.1.4 “Abortion kills innocent beings.” …………………. 23 4.2.1.5 “Abortion hurts women.” ………………………….. .. 24 4.2.1.6 “The Bible says abortion is wrong.” ……………… 25 4.2.1.7 “Abortion stops a beating heart.” …………………. 28 4.2.1.8 “How would you like it if . .?” …………………….. 29 THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION viii 4.2.2 “For” Abortion ………………………….. ……………………. 30 4.2.2.1 “Women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies.” ………………………….. ………… 30 4.2.2.2 “People who oppose abortion are just trying to control women.” ………………………….. …………… 31 4.2.2.3 “Men shouldn’t make decisions about matters affecting women.” ………………………….. ………… 31 4.2.2.4 “Women and girls will die if abortion isn’t allowed.” ………………………….. ……………………… 32 5 Better Arguments: Philosophers’ Arguments …………………… 33 5.1 Arguments Against Abortion ………………………….. ………. 33 5.1.1 Fetuses are human ………………………….. ……………….. 33 5.1.2 Fetuses are human beings ………………………….. ……… 35 5.1.3 Fetuses are persons ………………………….. ………………. 40 5.1.4 Fe tuses are potential persons ………………………….. …. 43 5.1.5 Abortion prevents fetuses from experiencing their valuable futures ………………………….. ……………………. 44 5.2 Arguments that abortion is often not wrong ………………. 46 5.2.1 No good arguments that it is wrong ……………………. 46 5.2.2 Early fetuses aren’t conscious & feeling: personhood and harm ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 47 5.2.3 The right to life & the right to someone else’s body 48 5.2.4 “What ifs”: rape and later -term abortions ……………. 50 6 Conclusion ………………………….. ………………………….. …………. 53 7 For Further Reading ………………………….. …………………………. 55 8 Discussion Questions ………………………….. ……………………….. 57 ix ACKNOWLEDGMENTS For helpful comments on this essay , we thank Rebecca Tuvel, Chelsea Haramia, Garret Merriam, Ari Joffe , Jordy Burks, David Brodeur and, especially, Noah Levin , whose invitation to write on this topic for his textbook led to this book . This book is an expansion and development of our “Common Arguments about Abortion” and “Better (Philosophical) Arguments about Abortion” chapters in Noah Levin, ed., Introduction to Ethics: An Open Educational Resource (NGE Far Press, 2019 ). 1 1 Introduction Abortion is often in the news. In the course of writing this essay in early 2019, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana passed legislation to outlaw and criminalize abortions st arting at six to eight weeks in pregnancy, with more states likely following. Federal law, however, generally permits abortions, so it is unclear what the legal outcome here will be. Abortion is a political issue — with different political parties tending to have different perspectives on the issue — because abortion is a moral or ethical issue. (These two words , “moral” and “ethical,” mean the same thing.) Some believe that abortions are typically morally permissible , or not wrong , and so believe that abort ions should be legal. If doing something isn’t wrong, it shouldn’t be illegal: criminalizing actions that aren’t wrong is a form of injustice. Other s believe that abortion is morally wrong, that it’s often wrong, maybe nearly always or even always . Some people argue that even though they believe abortion is wrong, it should remain legal: after all, if every morally wrong action was illegal, we would all be in jail! Seriously though, there are many actions that are morally wrong, even really hurtful, that the government shouldn’t try to prevent or punish. (You can supply the potential examples to make the point. 1) People who think abortion is wrong might also think that, for a variety of other reasons, their personal moral views on the issues shouldn’t be 1 Some potential examples of wrong actions that you shouldn’t be imprisoned for: lying to your best friend; insulting your mother behind her back; wishing harm on someone who cuts you off in traffic; breaking a promise to mow your neighbor’s lawn; in general , being unkind and discouraging to others in ways that profoundly hurts them. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 2 made into law for all. Others argue that abortions are wrong and should be illegal. What types of wrongdoing should be illegal? This question isn’t easy to answer: it’s abstract and general. One answer is that seriously, extremely wrong actions should be i llegal . This might seem plausible, since many illegal actions are seriously wrong. But since there are other very wrong actions that shouldn’t be illegal, this answer isn’t perfect. We argue, however, that abortion should not be illegal because most aborti ons are not morally wrong (and so they are not seriously or extremely wrong). So the states above are making bad moral and legal moves, to say the least, in trying to criminalize abortions, at least when they are done early in pregnancy, as they usually ar e. And if federal law changes towards prohibiting abortions, that would be another, more profound step towards injustice. There is a lot to discuss. Here’s the plan: 1. First, we define “abortion.” There are controversies even in stating our topic. 2. Second, we give some brief factual, scientific information about how fetuses develop, in terms of the emergence of consciousness, awareness and feeling, briefly explain the moral significance of these psychological characteristics, and review the evidence on when most abortions occur, and why . 3. Third, we discuss some common, but bad, arguments. First, we review many common what are called “question – begging” arguments. This ty pe of argument assumes the conclusion it is trying to support, instead of giving 3 genuine reasons to support that conclusion. These arguments are a type of circular reasoning and are no good from the perspective of people who want to think critically and ba se their beliefs and actions on good arguments. Next, we discuss arguments that you’d often see as comments on newspaper stories and editorials, and even in those writings themselves. We call these “everyday arguments.” Seeing why these arguments are bad will help us all shift the focus to better arguments. 4. Finally, we discuss some of the most important better arguments on the issues, focusing on arguments that professional philosophers tend to focus on. Here we argue that the most influential arguments “against” abortion are weak: they don’t provide good reasons to believe that most abortions are wrong. And we argue that there are good positive reasons to believe that abortion is usually not wrong. These arguments are based on facts about early fetuses completely lacking any consciousness, awareness or feeling, and the insight that the “right to life” is not a right to anyone else’s body. So, we argue that there are good arguments to justify a broadly “pro -choice” perspective. People often begin discussions of abortion with a lot of “what ifs”: “ What if an abortion is wanted because of rape?” “ What if it’s nee ded to save a woman’s life?” “ What if there are fetal abnormalities?” “ What if … ?” We want to initially set aside these “what ifs?” to focus on more “ordinary cases” (if there is such a thing) where abortion is considered, not cases like these. We should acknowledge though that even most people who call themselves “pro -life” think that THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 4 abortion can be permissible if it is genuinely needed to save the woman’s life. This is because if she dies, then the fetus dies also, and so an abortion — which saves one lif e— would be more “pro – life” than allowing two deaths. We will return to the ethics of abortions due to rape at the end of the essay and briefly discuss the ethics and legality of rare abortions done later in pregnancy, far past the first trimester. In read ing this essay, we encourage trying to think about the issues with an “open mind.” What we mean is to try to consider and evaluate the arguments as if you didn’t already have strong views on the issue that you are committed to. (Maybe you are like this, wh ich can be good: you shouldn’t have firm opinions on issues if you aren’t well -informed on them). Critical thinking often involves defining words and giving and evaluating reasons: asking questions like “what do you mean?” and “why think that?” It involve s stating arguments in their full pattern of reasoning and rigorously evaluating all premises. It involves identifying differing explanations of various moral and scientific facts and trying to determine which explanations are best . It involves thinking ab out thinking. Most importantly though, good critical thinking isn’t done with an agenda or to support a point of view: it’s to find a point of view that’s worth supporting. Our perspectives on abortion didn’t develop (we hope! ) with an “agenda” in mind be yond believing what’s supported by good arguments, and neither should yours . And views can and should change, in response to understanding better arguments, so our conclusions here are not “set in stone.” New arguments, including responses to the argumen ts presented here, might change our minds for the better — and the same should be true for all critical thinkers. Let’s begin! 5 2 Defining “Abortion” Abortion might personally affect you or someone you know: you or a partner, spouse, relative or friend may have had an abortion, have considered abortion, or will have an abortion. But what is an abortion? There are a number of common definitions, some of which are better and others which are worse: ● Definition 1 : An abortion is the murder of an unbo rn baby or child . ● Definition 2 : An abortion is the intentional termination of a fetus to end a pregnancy. ● Definition 3: An abortion is the intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy. Definition 3 is best. We’ll explain why after we show the pro blems with the first two definitions. 2.1 “Murdering Babies” Definition 1 is common with certain groups of people, but even people who believe abortion is wrong should reject it. “Murder” means “wrongful killing,” and so this definition implies that abo rtion is wrong by definition , which it isn’t. This definition implies that to know that abortion is wrong, we’d just need to reflect on the meaning of the word, and not give any reasons to think it is wrong. Murder is wrong by definition , but to know that any particular killing is murder, we need arguments. (Compare someone who calls the death penalty murder : we know it’s killing, but is it wrongful killing? We can’t just appeal to the THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 6 definition of “murder”: we ’d need arguments that the death penalty involves wrongful killing .) This definition also means that someone who claims that abortion is not wrong says that “Wrongful killing is not wrong,” which makes no sense. We can even call this a “question -begging” definition, since it assumes that abortion is wrong, which can’t be assumed . So this definition is problematic, even if abortion is wrong. Definition 1 also describes fetuses as “babies” or “children.” While people are usually free to use words however they want, people can say thin gs that are false: calling something something doesn’t mean it’s really that thing. And the beginnings of something are usually not that thing: a pile of lumber and supplies is not a house; fabric, buttons and thread are not a shirt, and an embryo or early fetus is not a baby or child. To see this, do a Google image search for “babies ” an d “ children ” and “ fetal development ” and “ embryonic development .” What (and who ) you see in these searches, although related and similar in some ways, are very different : if someone says they want a baby, they are n’t saying they want a month -old fetus. And doing a Google image search for “fetuses of different animals ” will bring images like this: 7 “Baby” rabbits and turtles aren’t at the top of images like this, and neither are “baby” humans. So it’s false and misleading to call embryos and early fetuses “babies” or “children.” Defining abortion in terms of “babies” seems to again result in a “quest ion -begging” definition that assumes that abortion is wrong, since it is widely and correctly believed that it’s wrong to kill babies. We understand, however, that it’s wrong to kill babies because we think about born babies who are conscious and feeling and have other baby -like characteristics: these are the babies we have in mind when we think about the wrongness of killing babies, not early fetuses. Describing early fetuses as “babies” characterizes them either as something they are not or assumes things that need to be argued for, which is misleading, both factually (in terms of what fetuses are like) and morally (insofar as it’s assumed that the rules about how babies should be treated clearly and straightforwardly apply to, say, embryos). Part of the problem with this definition is that words like “babies” and “children” elicit strong emotional responses. Babies THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 8 and children are associated with value -laden terms such as innocence , vulnerability , preciousness , cuteness , and more. When we refer to unborn human beings as fetuses , people sometimes become defensive because they see the word “fetus” as cold and sterile. But “fetus” is merely a helpful, and accurate, name for a stage of development, as is “baby,” “child,” “adolescent,” and “adult.” Distinguish ing different stages of human development doesn’t commit anyone to a position on abortion, but it does help us understand what an abortion is. In sum, defining abortion in terms of “murdering babies” is a bad definition: it misleads and assumes things it s houldn’t. Even those who think that abortion is wrong should not accept it. 2.2 “Termination” The second definition describes abortion as an intentional action. This is good since a pregnant woman does not “have an abortion,” in the sense we are discuss ing here, if her pregnancy ends because of, say, a car accident. And “spontaneous abortions” or miscarriages are not intentional actions that can be judged morally: they just happen. Definitions, however, are supposed to be informative, and the vague word “termination” doesn’t inform. If someone had literally no idea what an abortion was, it would be fair for them to ask what’s exactly involved in a “termination” of a pregnancy. A discussion between persons A and B , where B knows nothing about abortion , mi ght go like this: A. “There is a pregnant woman (or girl) who does not want to have a baby, a living baby, obviously. And so we are going to do something to something inside her — that is developing into that living baby — so she does not have 9 that baby. The act ion we are going to do is the ‘termination.’” B. “That something inside her, developing into that living baby, is it living?” A. “Yes. It started from a living egg and sperm cell.” B. “So you are making something living not living , right? That sounds like killin g something, right?” Person B’s reasoning seems correct: abortions do involve killing. The word “termination” obscures that fact and so makes for an unclear definition. This doesn’t make the definition wrong ; to “terminate” something means to end it in so me way , and abortion ends the development of a fetus. But it doesn’t say how abortion ends that development and so is not ideal. Why might someone accept this definition? Probably because they are reasoning this way: Killing is wrong. So if abortion is killing, then it’s wrong. But I don’t believe that abortion is wrong, or I am unsure that abortion is wrong, so I don’t want to call it a ‘killing,’ since that means it’s wrong. The problem here is the first step. Not all killing is wrong . Lots of killing is perfectly fine and raises no moral issues at all: killing mold, killing bacteria, killing plants, killing fleas, killing random cells and tissues (even ones that are human, say cheek cells or skin cells), and more. We don’t even need t o observe that it’s sometimes not wrong to kill adult human beings to make the point that not all killing is wrong. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 10 This means that it’s not problematic to define abortion in terms of “killing.” The important questions then are, “Is abortion wrongful kill ing, or killing that’s not wrong?” and “When, if ever, might abortion be wrongful killing and when, if ever, might it be permissible killing? And why ?” 2.3 “Killing” A final definition understands abortion in terms of an intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy .2 This definition is accurate , informative since it tells us how the fetus would be “terminated,” and morally -neutral : it doesn’t assume that the killing involved in abortions is not wrong or that it’s wrong. This is a good definition. 3 2 We accept here that contraceptive measures are not abortifacients. Here “contraception” is understood as any measure that prevents fertilization or implantation. Abortion is u nderstood as the killing of an already – implanted, developing fetus. 3 Later, however, we will see that there are reasons to define abortion as the intentional withholding of what a fetus needs to live to end a pregnancy . This definition can be developed fr om some insights into what the right to life seems to involve. 11 3 Fetal Consciousness & Facts about Abortions To responsibly discuss any practical moral issue, we need to know factual information about the issue. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most relevant information, and some initial discussion of its moral significance. 3.1 Fetal Consciousness The most important information about the development of fetuses is when they become consci ous or aware, or when they become able to feel anything. Scientific evidence suggests consciousness likely emerges, at the earliest, after the first trimester, at least three or four months into pregnancy. (To review this research, search the US National L ibrary of Medicine at PubMed.gov for fetal pain and fetal consciou sness .4) Consciousness develops after most abortions occur, so most abortions do not affect conscious, feeling fetuses. 4 It should be acknowledged that although there is a lot of research on fetal pain, there seems to be less direct discussion of when, if ever, fetuses might become conscious yet without being able to feel anything pleasurable or painful, or any good or bad feelings. This, however, should be acknowledged as a peculiar form of existence: being in complete darkness, and able to feel things, yet nothing in any way feels good or bad to you would be, well, hard to imagine! THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 12 Source: Brad Smith at http://embryo.soad.umich.edu/carnStages/carnStages.html Concerns about consciousness and feeling in fetuses are most important for them because they are fundamentally what’s most im portant for us . Consciousness enables us to have and experience anything good in life, and it is necessary for anything bad to happen to us also: without a point of view, things can’t get worse for us . Imagine that someone was born unconscious and lived t heir entire existence unconscious: they were never aware of anything, ever. They had no perceptions, no awareness, no feelings, and of course no relationships, knowledge, happiness, or even sadness. And then they died. What were they like? Honestly, they n ever were : there was never anyone there. If anything bad ever happened to this body, nothing bad ever happened to them , since “they” never existed in a way that matters. No “window to the 13 world” was opened through them, so to speak. 5 Consider also if you died prematurely, or were killed, or even if you went into a permanent coma or vegetative state, perhaps for many years or decades, and then died. Either option is very bad for you: since your consciousness ends, you end. (If you believe or hope that you w ill “live on” after death, you likely believe that your consciousness — your knowledge, your memories, your personality — continues after death, either with a rebuilt body, a new body or no body at all). If people “end” when their consciousness permanently en ds, then it seems that people don’t yet exist before there is a consciousness. Rocks aren’t conscious, plants aren’t conscious, and that’s why they lack rights. Minds matter , and so the fact that embryos and early fetuses completely lack minds — due initiall y to the absence of a brain and nervous system, and later due to these not being sufficiently developed to support consciousness — is what’s moral ly significant, not whether fetuses have heartbeats, or can move, or even respond to stimuli, if those responses aren’t genuinely felt by the fetus. 3.2 When Most Abortions Occur Most abortions occur early in pregnancy: two -thirds in the first two months, and around 90% in the first three months. The Guttmacher Institute researches these matters and provides this graph: 5 This metaphor comes from Bob Fischer, who presented it in a beautiful and moving eulogy, describing someone’s passing away as the irreparable breaking of a window to the world . THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 14 Source: https://www.guttmacher.org/fact -sheet/induced -abortion -united -states The US’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also provides research on the factual circumstances of abortions, which it presents as “ Abortion Surveillance ” that is readily available online. 3.3 Why Most Abortions Occur The Guttmacher “Fact Sheet” provides an overview of the research on why abortions occur and other relevant information: 15 ● The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. The three most common reaso ns — each cited by three -fourths of patients — were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half sai d they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner. ● Fifty -one percent of abortion patients were using a contraceptive method in the month they became pregnant, most commonly condoms (24%) or a hormonal method (1 3%). ● Fifty -nine percent of abortions were obtained by patients who had had at least one birth. ● Some 75% of abortion patients were poor or low -income. Twenty -six percent of patients had incomes of 100 –199% of the federal poverty level, and 49% had incomes of less than 100% of the federal poverty level ($15,730 for a family of two). This information suggests, at least, that if women were economically better off, had better access to affordable child -care and other forms of support, and had ready access to more relia ble forms of contraception, there would likely be fewer abortions. Some argue that people who wish to criminalize abortion should support efforts to reduce the numbers of abortions, say by providing these types of support for women so they are less incline d to seek abortions. This is understandable (although subject to objections, of course): if something is wrong, people who can prevent it should try to do so. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 16 To be fair, however, we should think about why some people might deny this, for this issue. (Abo rtion is a topic where it seems especially common that many people don’t know what people who disagree with them think or why they think that: a goal of this essay is to help with this problem.) Here’s an imperfect analogy: burglary is wrong: people should n’t burgle. Should there be special programs and supports to help people not burgle? Some might say ‘no’: all that’s needed to address burglary is for people to just stop stealing stuff : nobody else needs to do anything about it. And so, by analogy, some w ho argue that abortion is wrong might say that women just need to stop having abortions, but nobody else must help make that happen. While t his response is understandable , it does not seem to fit with many of the Christian values, as well as general concerns about doing good for others , that many who oppose abortion claim to profess: e.g., this attitude is very contrary to the messages of “love your neighbor” ( even if you think your neighbor is engaged in wrongdoing) and the parable of the “Good Samaritan,” discussed later in this essay ( perhaps the priest or Levite in the story thought, “I didn’t rob the guy, so I don’t have to help him: the problem was the robbers , not my not helping him!” but that is not an admirable response ), and hence the common charge of hypocrisy and arbitrary, unjustified selectivity in moral concern. While some of the above factual claims are potentially debatable , we still need to use critical thinki ng to assess the evidence for any contrary claims. And, most importantly, we need to think about what would and would not follow, morally, from different sets of facts, given the moral arguments that are discussed below. 17 4 Bad Arguments: “Question -Begg ing” Arguments & “Everyday” Arguments Now we’ll discuss some often -given arguments about abortion that, unfortunately, we will see are rather poor. We need to engage these arguments first, however, so we are in a better position to productively engage ar guments that are at the real core of the issues. 4.1 “Question -Begging” Arguments Many common arguments about abortion are what’s called “question -begging,” which means the reason given for the conclusion assumes that conclusion. This means that you wou ldn’t accept the reason as a good reason to believe the conclusion unless you already believed that conclusion. This is circular reasoning, and so arguments like this are always bad. 4.1.1 “Against” Abortion: Many common arguments against abortion are q uestion begging. Here are some: Abortion — killing fetuses to end pregnancies — is wrong because: (1) abortion is murder ; (2) abortion is killing babies or children ; (3) adoption is a better option than abortion; (4) pregnant women just must keep the pregnancy and give birth; (5) abortion should not be used as ‘birth control’; (6) women who have abortions are irresponsible ; THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 18 (7) a good person wouldn’t have an abortion; (8) some women who have abortions feel guilty , and all should . These often -heard claims a ll assume that abortion is wrong. To explain: ● (1) assumes that killing fetuses is wrong, since “murder” means wrongful killing; ● (2) assumes that fetuses are like babies and children and so are similarly wrong to kill; ● (3) assumes that abortion is a worse or bad option, since it assumes it is wrong; ● (4) assumes that women must not have abortions since it assumes abortions are wrong; ● (5) assumes that abortion is wrong: if abortion is not wrong , it could permissibly be used as a form of “birth control,” ev en if is not an ideal form of that; ● (6) assumes that women who have abortions are doing what they are not supposed to do, doing wrong, and so are “irresponsible”; ● (7) assumes that abortion is wrong and so good people, who avoid wrongdoing, wouldn’t have on e; ● (8) assumes that abortion is wrong and so assumes that some women feel guilty because they have done something wrong: but since people can feel guilty even if they haven’t done anything wrong, guilty feelings aren’t perfect evidence of wrongdoing (just as not feeling guilty doesn’t mean you did something that was permissible). People would believe these claims only if they already believed abortion is wrong, so these claims should not sway anyone who 19 wants to think critically about the topic. 4.1.2 “For” Abortion: People who believe abortion should be allowed also sometimes give question -begging arguments. Here are a few: Abortion is not wrong because: (1) abortion is a personal choice ; couples should be able to make that choice; (2) women have a (m oral) right to have abortions; (3) women have the right to do what they want with their bodies; (4) well, if you don’t like abortions, then don’t have one ! (5) those who oppose abortions just want to control women. These commonly -given claims likewise assume their co nclusions. To explain: ● the idea of a “personal choice” seems to be a choice that’s not wrong to make: e.g., we wouldn’t call a choice to be an ax -murderer a “personal choice” because that’s wrong, whereas what color socks to wear is a “personal choice.” So claims like (1) seem to just assume that abortion is not wrong or that it should be legal; ● when people say that they have a moral right to do something, sometimes they are merely saying that it’s not wrong for them to do it . So (2) amounts to saying that abortion is not wrong because it’s not wrong, which is THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 20 question -begging. (If it’s explained why women have this right, the argument might cease to be question -begging, however); ● about (3), there are limits to rights, and sometimes we don’t have the legal or moral right to do what’s wrong. If abortion were wrong, then perhaps women wouldn’t have the right to have them, and this claim just assumes abortions are not wrong; ● about (4), consider an analogous slogan, “Don’t like arson? Then don’t burn down any b uildings !” This is absurd, because arson is wrong, and we don’t offer slogans like this about actions that are wrong. “Don’t like strawberries? Then don’t eat them !” makes sense since not eating strawberries is not wrong. Slogan (4) assumes that abortion i s not wrong; ● about (5), since some wrongdoing should be “controlled,” those who offer (5) might merely assume that abortion is not a type of wrongdoing that should be illegal. They are also focusing on other people’s motives, which is often unwise: people who allegedly wish to “control” women might respond or suspect that abortion advocates are often motivated by a desire to “engage i n immorality without consequences!” ( Is that true? No, pro -choice advocates argue.) Accusations about motives are fruitless: it’s better to engage the basic questions of whether abortion is wrong or not and why , like we are doing here, instead of speculati ng about motives. Question -begging arguments are common, on many issues, not just abortion, and they should be rejected, by everyone, always. 21 4.2 “Everyday” Arguments Now we will discuss some other common arguments that you might often hear or read about that are also poor, but often not because they are question -begging. We’ll begin with some arguments against abortion. 4.2.1 “Against” Abortion 4.2.1.1 “Abortion end s a life.” People often ask, “When does life begin?” Some people wonder if fetuses are “alive,” or when they become “life.” Some argue that abortion is wrong because “life begins at conception,” whereas some who support abortion sometimes respond that “fe tuses aren’t even alive.” There are a lot of debates here, and to get past them, we need to ask what is meant by calling something alive, living or a life . This is often considered a “deep” question, but it’s not. Consider this: are eggs (in women) alive? Are sperm cells alive? Yes to both — they are biologically alive — and so when a sperm fertilizes an egg, what results is a biologically living thing. Above, we defined abortion as a type of killing and, of course, you can only kill living things. So, yes, fe tuses are alive, biologically alive , from conception: they are engaged in the types of life processes reviewed on page 1 of any biology textbook. Some people think that fetuses being alive makes abortion is wrong, and so they enthusiastically argue that f etuses are biologically alive. And some who think that abortion is not wrong respond by arguing that fetuses are not even alive. These responses suggest concern with an argument like this: THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 22 Fetuses are biologically alive. All things that are biologically alive are wrong to kill. Therefore, fetuses are wrong to kill. The first premise is clearly true: anyone who would deny this knows very little about basic biology, or just misunderstands what’s being said. The second premise, however, is obviously false and uncontroversial examples show that. Mold, bacteria, mosquitos and plants are all biologically alive , but they aren’t wrong to kill at all. So, just as acknowledging that abortion involves killing doesn’t mean that abortion is wrong, recognizing that biological life begins at conception doesn’t make abortion is wrong either. Now, perhaps people really mean something like “morally significant life” or “life with rights,” but that’s not what they say. If that’s what people mean, they should say that, since being clear and accurate is important for thinking about debated issues. 4.2.1.2 “Abortion kills b abies and children.” Classifying fetuses as babies or children obscures any potentially – relevant differences between, say, a 6 -week old fetus and a 6 -day old baby or 6 -year old child. This claim assumes that fetuses — at any stage of development — and babies are the same sort of entity and so have similar rights. So the claim is question -begging, as 23 was discussed above in the section on definitions, and uses loaded emotional language: it doesn’t make for a good argument against abortion. 4.2.1.3 “Abortion is murder.” Murder is a term for a specific kind of killing. As a moral term, it refers to wrongful killing. As a legal term, it refers to intentional killing that is both unlawful and malicious. Since abortion is legal in the US, most abortions cannot be legally classified as murder because they are not illegal or unlawful. Moreover, abortions don’t seem to be done with malicious intent. When people claim that abortion is murder, what they seem to mean is either that abortion should be re -classified as mur der or that abortion is wrong , or both. Either way, arguments are needed to support that, not question -begging slogans. 4.2.1.4 “Abortion kills innocent beings.” Fetuses are often described as “innocent,” meaning that they have done nothing wrong to des erve being killed or that would justify killing them. Since killing anyone innocent is wrong, this suggests that abortion is wrong. “Innocence,” however, seems to be a concept that only applies to beings that can do wrong and choose not to. Since fetuses can’t do anything — they especially cannot do anything wrong that would make them “guilty” or deserving of anything bad — the concept of innocence does not seem to apply to them. So saying that banning abortion would “protect the innocent” is inaccurate since abortion doesn’t kill “innocent” beings: the concept of innocence just doesn’t apply : fetuses are neither innocent nor not innocent . THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 24 4.2.1.5 “Abortion hurts women.” Some clai m that abortions are medically dangerous. This is generally not true, if you look at the medical research: abortions are less dangerous than pregnancy and childbirth, which many women die from, even today. But for this argument to succeed, we’d also have t o believe this: All dangerous activities are morally wrong or should be illegal . Even if this idea is restricted to medically dangerous activities, this principle is just not true: people are and should be free to choose to accept risks ; we all do it e very day. So this argument is unsound, even if it overestimates the risks of abortions. Another concern is that abortions are psychologically or emotionally dangerous. When this is the concern, it is sometimes expressed this way: “Many women regret their abortions.” When women regret abortions (some women do; some women don’t), this is sometimes because they believe they have done something wrong and so the argument — which was discussed above — is question -begging since it assumes that abortion is wrong. But, again, not everything that’s emotionally harmful is wrong or should be illegal: not having children sometimes leads to major regret and depression for some people, but surely not having children shouldn’t be criminalized because of it. Finally, it’s fair to observe that it is disingenuous to have major concerns about this narrow area of women’s health but be indifferent to or hostile towards other practices and policies that would benefit women’s health in other ways. This is especially disingenuous when this abortion -related health concern is 25 expressed for women who are racial minorities, who already often have increased health inequalities, including many related to pregnancy and childbirth. 6 4.2.1.6 “The Bible says abortion is wrong.” People often appeal to religion to justify their moral views. Some say that God thinks abortion is wrong, but it’s a fair question how they might know this, especially since others claim to know that God doesn’t think that. Some say that “only God should d ecide who exists and who ceases to exist, who is born and who dies, ” yet this phrase lacks meaning and it fails to provide moral guidance. For example, people frequently try to reproduce, which causes people to come into existence, and this is rarely consi dered immoral. At the other end of the life spectrum, a “hands off” approach to end of life decisions is not just irresponsible, it is sometimes profoundly immoral. In reply, it is sometimes said that the Bible says abortion is wrong (and that’s how we kno w what God thinks). But the Bible doesn’t say that abortion is wrong: it doesn’t discuss abortion at all. There is a commandment against killing , but, as our discussion above makes clear, this requires interpretation about what and who is wrong to kill: pr esumably, the Bible doesn’t mean that killing mold or bacteria or plants is wrong. And there are verses ( Exodus 21:22 -24 ) that, on some interpretations , suggest that fetuses lack the value of born persons, since penalties 6 Readers should search the medical literature (at http://PubMed.gov ) for research on minority health inequalities, but here is one story from the news media: NBC News’ “ Life -threatening birth complications more common in minorities, study finds ” (October 10, 2018). For impo rtant general discussion, see NPR’s “ U.S. Has The Worst Rate Of Maternal Deaths In The Developed World ” (May 12, 2017), which is pa rt of their series “ Lost Mothers: Maternal Mortality In The U.S .” THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 26 for damage to each differ. This coincides with common Jewish views on the issue, that the needs and rights of the mother outweigh any the fetus might have. However any verses are best interpreted, they still don’t show tha t abortion is wrong. This is because the Bible is not always a reliable guide to morality, since there are troubling verses that seem to require killing people for trivial “crimes,” allow enslaving people (a nd beating them), require obeying all government officials and more. And Jesus commanded loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies and taking care of orphans, immigrants and refugees, and offered many other moral guidelines that many people reg ard as false. 7 Simple moral arguments from the Bible assume that if the Bible says an action is wrong, then it really is wrong (and if the Bible says something’s not wrong, it’s not wrong ), and both premises don’t seem to be literally true, or even believe d. This all suggests that people sometimes appeal to the Bible, and other religious sources, in selective and self -serving ways: they come to the Bible with their previously -held moral assumptions and seek to find something in the Bible to justify them. A quote from the late Christian author Rachel Held Evans gives insight and wisdom here: 7 Appeals to the Bible and any other sources considered to be an authority , leads to this dilemma: either there are good reasons to accept what that authority claims or not . If not , then we should not accept what the authority says. If there are good reasons, then those reasons — which we all can discuss and debate — would be why we should accept what it says, not because the “a uthority” says so. These insights are applied to morally problematic verses of the Bible, since we have good reasons to reject the moral guidance suggested by those verses. For discussion of these issues, which are related to the “Euthyphro dilemma” that S ocrates addressed, see Spencer Case’s “ Because God Says So: On Divine Command Theory ,” at 1000 -Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (1000WordPhilosophy.com ). 27 There is an interesting and important Biblical connection here worth mentioning though. Some argue that if women who want abortions are prevented from having them, t hat forces them to remain pregnant and give birth and this is like forcing women to be like the “Good Samaritan” from the New Testament who went out of his way, at expense to himself, to help a stranger in great need ( Luke 10:25 -37 ). (The analogy is imperfect, as analogies always are, yet imperfect analogies can yield insight.) The problem is that in no other area of life is anyone forced to be a Good Samaritan like a pregnant woman would: e.g., you THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 28 can’t be forced to donate an organ to anyone in need (even to your child or parent 8); you can’t even be forced to donate your organs after you are dead! Nobody other than pregnant women would be forced by the government — under threat of imprisonment or worse — to use their body to help sustain someone else’s life. (Any “Good Samaritan” laws demand far, far less than what pregnancy and childbirth demand.) So it is unfair to require women to be Good Samaritans but allow the res t of us to be like the priest and Levite in the story who go out of their way to help nobody. Finally, it’s important to remember that laws should not be based on any particular religion. If you are not, say, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian, you probably don’t want laws based solely on one of those religion’s values. Laws should be religiously -neutral; on that we all should agree. 4.2.1.7 “Abortion stops a beating heart.” This claim, if given as an argument, assumes that stopping a beating heart is wrong . The assumption, however, is just obviously untrue: e.g., during open heart surgery, surgeons temporarily stop the patient’s heart so that repair can be made to the still h eart: they would permanently stop that heart if they replaced it with an artificial heart. If there were somehow an independently beating heart, attached to nobody, that heart wouldn’t be wrong to stop. Whether a heart is wrong to stop or not depends on wh o is around that heart and their value or rights, 8 See , e.g., the 1978 court case of McFall v. Shimp . A man with a deadly disease (McFall) sued his cousin (Shimp ) to receive a potentially life – saving bone marrow transplant. The judge refused to allow Shimp to be forced to give his marrow on the grounds that forcing this “ would defeat the sanctity of the individual and would impose a rule which would know no limits , and one could not imagine where the line would be drawn. ” 29 not anything about that heart by itself. Finally, embryos and early fetuses do not even have hearts , as critics of recent “heartbeat” bills have observed! (The heart fully develops much later in pregnancy.) If, however, this widely expressed concern about a heartbeat isn’t meant to be taken literally, but is merely a metaphor or an emotional appeal, we submit that these are inappropriate for serious issues like this one. 4.2.1.8 “How would you like it if . .?” Some ask, “How would you like it if your mother had had an abortion?” Others tell stories of how their mother almost had an abortion and how they are grateful she didn’t. Questions and stories like these can have emotional impact, and they sometimes persuade, but they shouldn’t. Consider some other questions: ● How would you like it if your mother had been a nun, or celibate, all her life ? ● How would you like it if your mother had moved away from the city where she met your father, and they never met? ● How would you like it if your father had decided early in life to have a vasectomy ? All sorts of actions could have prevented each of our ex istences — if your parents had acted differently in many ways (perhaps almost any ways), you wouldn’t be here to entertain the question: at best, someone else would be 9— but these actions aren’t wrong. 9 For discussion of this question of what could have been different about the past such that you never existed, see Chad Vance’s “ Origin THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 30 Some might reply that if you had been murdered as a baby , you wouldn’t be here to discuss it. True, but that baby was conscious, had feelings, and had a perspective on the world that ended in being murdered: an early fetus is not like that. We can empathetically imagine what it might have been like for that mur dered child; we can’t do that with a never -been -conscious fetus, since there’s no perspective to imagine. In sum, these are some common arguments given against abortion. They aren’t good. Everyone can do better. 4.2.2 “For” Abortion Many common argume nts “for” abortion are also weak. This is often because these arguments simply don’t engage the concerns of people who think abortion is wrong. Consider these often – heard claims: 4.2.2.1 “Women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies .” Au tonomy , the ability to make decisions about matters that profoundly affect your own life, is very important: it’s a core concern in medical ethics. But autonomy has limits: your autonomy doesn’t, say, justify using your body to murder an innocent person , w hich is what some claim abortion is. The slogan that “women can do what they want with their bodies” does not engage that claim or any arguments given in its favor. As an argument, it’s inadequate. Essentialism: What Could Have Been Different about You? ” at 1000 – Word Philosophy (1000WordPhilosophy.com ). 31 4.2.2.2 “People who oppose abortion are just trying to control women.” They might be trying to do this. But they might be trying to ban abortion because they believe that abortion is wrong and should be illegal . ( Again, c ritics of abortion might respond that abortion advocates just want to “engage in immoral ity without consequences!” Is that true? No, pro -choice advocates argue). Speculations about motives don’t engage or critique any arguments anyone might give for their views, and so are unwise and fruitless. (If you doubt that thinking critically about arguments and evidence here would do any good, do they have any better ideas that might do more good?) 4.2.2.3 “Men shouldn’t make decisions about matters affecting women.” Insofar as women profoundly disagree on these issues, some women must be making, or urging, bad decisions about matters affecting women: all women can’t be correct on the issues. And some men can understand that some arguments (endorsed sometimes by both w omen and men) are bad arguments. And men can give good arguments on the issues. In general, someone’s sex or gender has little to no bearing on whether they can make good arguments about matters that affect them or anyone else . Furthermore, the existence of transgender men who have given birth further undermines the thought that one sex or gender is apt to have more correct views here. Finally, discouraging any competent people from engaging in reasoned discussion and advocacy is simply unwise: that is not part of a smart and effective strategy for social change. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 32 4.2.2.4 “Women and girls will die if abortion isn’t allowed.” Historically, this has been true, and is likely to remain the case . However, this fact is apt to not be persuasive to some people who believe that abortion is wrong: they will respond, “If someone dies because they are doing something wrong like having an abortion , that’s ‘on them,’ not those who are trying to prevent that wrong.” Observing that women wil l die if abortions are outlawed doesn’t engage any arguments that abortion is wrong or give much of a reason to think that abortion is not wrong. Again, this type of engagement is necessary for progress on these issues. In sum, while we argue below that people who believe that abortion is generally not morally wrong and should be legal are correct , they sometimes don’t offer very good reasons to think this. We aim to provide these reasons below. 33 5 Better Arguments: Philosophers’ Arguments Finally, we get to arguments that philosophers tend to focus on. 5.1 Arguments Against Abortion We will begin with arguments for the conclusion that abortion is generally wrong , perhaps nearly always wrong . These can be seen as reasons to believe fetuses have the “right to life” or are otherwise seriously wrong to kill. 5.1.1 Fetuses are human First, there is the claim that fetuses are “human” and so abortion is wrong. People sometimes debate whether fetuses are human , but fetuses found in (human) women clearly are biologically human : they aren’t cats or dogs. And so we have this argument, with a clearly true first premise: Fetuses are biologically human. All things that are biologically human are wrong to kill. Therefore, fetuses are wrong to kill. The second premise, however, is false, as easy counterexamples show. Consider some random livin g biologically human cells or tissues in a petri dish. It wouldn’t be wrong at all to wash those cells or tissues down the drain, killing them; scratching yourself or shaving might kill some biologically human skin cells, but that’s not wrong; a tumor migh t be biologically human, but no t wrong to kill. So just because something is biologically human, that does not at all mean it’s wrong to kill that thing. We saw this same point about what’s merely biologically alive. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 34 This suggests a deficiency in some common understandings of the important idea of “human rights.” “Human rights” are sometimes described as rights someone has just because they are human or simply in virtue of being human . But the human cells in the petri dish above don’t have “human rights” and a human heart wouldn’t have “human rights” either. Many examples would make it clear that merely being biologically human doesn’t give something human rights. And many human rights a dvocates do not think that abortion is wrong, despite recognizing that (human) fetuses are biologically human. The problem about what is often said about human rights is that people often do not think about what makes human beings have rights or why we ha ve them, when we have them. The common explanation, that we have (human) rights just because we are (biologically) human , is incorrect, as the above discussion makes clear. This misunderstanding of the basis or foundation of human rights is problematic bec ause it leads to a widespread, misplaced fixation on whether fetuses are merely biologically 35 “human” and the mistaken thought that if they are, they have “human rights.” To address this problem, we need to identify better, more fundamental, explanations wh y we have rights, or why killing us is generally wrong, and see how those explanations might apply to fetuses, as we are doing here. It might be that when people appeal to the importance and value of being “human,” the concern isn’t our biology itself, bu t the psychological characteristics that many human beings have: consciousness, awareness, feelings and so on. We will discuss this different meaning of “human” below. This meaning of “human” might be better expressed as conscious being , or “person,” or hu man person. This might be what people have in mind when they argue that fetuses aren’t even “human.” Human rights are vitally important, and we would do better if we spoke in terms of “conscious -being rights” or “person -rights,” not “human rights.” This m ore accurate and informed understanding and terminology would help address human rights issues in general, and help us better think through ethical questions about biologically human embryos and fetuses. 5.1.2 Fetuses are human beings Some respond to th e arguments above — against the significance of being merely biologically human — by observing that fetuses aren’t just mere human cells, but are organized in ways that make them beings or organisms . (A kidney is part of a “being,” but the “being” is the whole organism.) That suggests this argument: Fetuses are human beings or organisms . All human beings or organisms are wrong to kill. Therefore, fetuses are wrong to kill, so abortion is wrong. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 36 The first premise is true: fetuses are dependent beings, but dependent beings are still beings. The second premise, however, is the challenge, in terms of providing good reasons to accept it. Clearly many human beings or organisms are wrong to kill, or wrong to kill unless there’s a good reason that wou ld justify that killing, e.g., self -defense. (This is often described by philosophers as us being prima facie wrong to kill, in contrast to absolutely or necessarily wrong to kill.) Why is this though? What makes us wrong to kill? And do these answers sugg est that all human beings or organisms are wrong to kill? Above it was argued that we are wrong to kill because we are conscious and feeling: we are aware of the world, have feelings and our perspectives can go better or worse for us — we can be harmed — and that’s what makes killing us wrong. It may also sometimes be not wrong to let us die, and perhaps even kill us, if we come to completely and permanently lacking consciousness, say from major brain damage or a coma, since we can’t be harmed by death anymore : we might even be described as dead in the sense of being “brain dead.” 10 So, on this explanation, human beings are wrong to kill, when they are wrong to kill, not because they are human beings (a circular explanation), but because we have psychological, mental or emotional characteristics like these. This explains why we have rights in a simple, common -sense way: it also simply explains why rocks, microorganisms and plants don’t have rights. The challenge then is explaining why fetuses that have never bee n conscious or had any feeling or awareness would be wrong to kill. How then can the second premise above, general to all 10 For a brief discussion of this issue, see Nathan Nobis’s “ Euthanasia, or Mercy Killing ” at 1000 -Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (1000WordPhilosophy.com ). 37 human organisms, be supported, especially when applied to early fetuses? One common attempt is to argue that early fetuses are wrong to kill because there is continuous development from fetuses to us, and since we are wrong to kill now , fetuses are also wrong to kill, since we’ve been the “same being” all along. 11 But this can’t be good reasoning, since we have many physical, cognitive, emotional and moral characteristics now that we lacked as fetuses (and as children). So even if we are the “same being” over time, even if we were once early fetuses, that doesn’t s how that fetuses have the moral rights that babies, children and adults have: we, our bodies and our rights sometimes change. A second attempt proposes that rights are essential to human organisms: they have them whenever they exist. This perspective sees having rights, or the characteristics that make someone have rights, as essential to living human organisms. The claim is that “having rights” is an essential property of human beings or organisms, and so whenever there’s a living human organism, there’s someone with rights, even if that organism totally lacks consciousness, like an early fetus. (In contrast, the proposal we advocate for about what makes us have rights understands rights as “accidental” to our bodies but “essential” to our minds or awarene ss, since our bodies haven’t always “contained” a conscious being, so to speak.) Such a view supports the premise above; maybe it just is that premise above. But why believe that rights are essential to human 11 Francis Beckwith very much emphasizes this point, and so it might seem to be very relevant to his main argument, in his Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Argument Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2012). For discussion and reply, see Nathan Nobis’s “ Abortion, Metaphysics and Morality: A Review of Francis Beckwith’s Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice ,” The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy , Volume 36, Issue 3, June 2011, 261 –273. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 38 organisms? Some argue this is because of what “kind” of beings we are, which is often presumed to be “rational beings.” The reasoning seems to be this: first, that rights come from being a rational being: this is part of our “nature.” Second, that all human organisms, including fetuses, are the “kind” of being that is a “rational being,” so every being of the “kind” rational being has rights. 12 In response, this explanation might seem question -begging: it might amount to just asserting that all human beings have rights. This explanation is, at least, a bstract. It seems to involve some categorization and a claim that everyone who is in a certain category has some of the same moral characteristics that others in that category have, but because of a characteristic (actual rationality) that only these other s have: so, these others profoundly define what everyone else is. If this makes sense, why not also categorize us all as not rational beings , if we are the same kind of beings as fetuses that are actually not rational? This explanation might seem to invol ve thinking that rights somehow “trickle down” from later rationality to our embryonic origins, and so what we have later we also have earlier , because we are the same being or the same “kind” of being. But this idea is, in general, doubtful: we are now re sponsible beings, in part because we are rational beings, but fetuses aren’t responsible for anything. And we are now able to engage in moral reasoning since we are rational beings, but fetuses don’t have the “rights” that uniquely depend on moral reasonin g abilities. So that an individual is a member of some general group or kind doesn’t tell 12 Arguments like this are given by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen in numerous sources such as their Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (Doubleday, 2008). For a reply to more recent similar arguments against abortion from Christopher Tollefsen, see Nathan Nobis’s “ Reply to Christopher Tollefsen on Abortion ” (forthcoming in Bob Fischer’s Ethics: Left and Right , Oxford University Press, 2019). 39 us much about their rights: that depend s on the actual details about that individual, beyond their being members of a group or kind. To make this more concrete, retu rn to the permanently comatose individuals mentioned above: are we the same kind of beings, of the same “essence,” as these human beings? If so, then it seems that some human beings can be not wrong to let die or kill, when they have lost consciousness . Th erefore, perhaps some other human beings, like early fetuses, are also not wrong to kill before they have gained consciousness . And if we are not the same “kind” of beings, or have different essences, then perhaps we also aren’t the same kind of beings as fetuses either. Similar questions arise concerning anencephalic babies, tragically born without most of their brains: are they the same “kind” of beings as “regular” babies or us? If so, then — since such babies are arguably morally permissible to let die, even when they could be kept alive, since being alive does them no good — then being of our “kind” doesn’t mean the individual has the same rights as us , since letting us die would be wrong . But if such babies are a different “kind” of beings than us, then pre -conscious fetuses might be of a relevantly different kind also. So, in general, this proposal that early fetuses essentially have rights is suspect, if we evaluate the reasons given in its support. Even if fetuses and us are the same “kind” of beings (which perhaps we are not!) that doesn’t immediately tell us what rights fetuses would have, if any. And we might even reasonably think that, despite our being the same kind of beings as fetuses (e.g., the same kind of biolog y), we are also importantly different kinds of beings (e.g., one kind with a mental life and another kind which has never had it). This photograph of a 6 -week old fetus might help bring out the ambiguity in what kinds of beings we all are: THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 40 In sum, the abstract view that all human organisms have rights essentially needs to be plausibly explained and defended. We need to understand how it really works. We need to be shown why it’s a better explanation, all things considered, than a consciousness and feel ings -based theory of rights that simply explains why we, and babies, have rights, why racism, sexism and other forms of clearly wrongful discrimination are wrong, and , importantly, how we might lose rights in irreversible coma cases (if people always retai ned the right to life in these circumstances, presumably, it would be wrong to let anyone die), and more. 5.1.3 Fetuses are persons Finally, we get to what some see as the core issue here, namely whether fetuses are persons , and an argument like this: Fetuses are persons, perhaps from conception. Persons have the right to life and are wrong to kill. So, abortion is wrong, as it involves killing persons. 41 The second premise seems very plausible, but there are some important complications about it that will be discussed later. So let’s focus on the idea of personhood and whether any fetuses are persons. What is it to be a person ? One answer that everyone can agree on is that persons are beings with rights and value . That’s a fine answer, but it takes us back to the initial question: OK, who or what has the rights and value of persons? What makes someone or something a person? Answers here are often merely asserted , but these answers need to be tested: definitions can be judged in terms of whether they fi t how a word is used. We might begin by thinking about what makes us persons. Consider this: We are persons now. Either we will always be persons or we will cease being persons. If we will cease to be persons, what can end our personhood? If we will alway s be persons, how could that be? Both options yield insight into personhood. Many people think that their personhood ends at death or if they were to go into a permanent coma: their body is (biologically) alive but the person is gone: that is why other pe ople are sad. And if we continue to exist after the death of our bodies, as some religions maintain, what continues to exist? The person , perhaps even without a body , some think! Both responses suggest that personhood is defined by a rough and vague set of psychological or mental, rational and emotional characteristics: consciousness, knowledge, memories, and ways of communicating, all psychologically unified by a uniq ue personality. A second activity supports this understanding: THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 42 Make a list of things that are definitely not persons . Make a list of individuals who definitely are persons . Make a list of imaginary or fictional personified beings which, if existed, would be persons: these beings that fit or display the concept of person, even if they don’t exist. What explains the patterns of the lists? Rocks, carrots, cups and dead gnats are clearly not persons. We are persons. Science fiction gives us ideas of personif ied beings: to give something the traits of a person is to indicate what the traits of persons are, so personified beings give insights into what it is to be a person. Even though the non -human characters from, say, Star Wars don’t exist, they fit the conc ept of person: we could befriend them, work with them, and so on, and we could only do that with persons. A common idea of God is that of an immaterial person who has exceptional power, knowledge, and goodness: you couldn’t pray to a rock and hope that roc k would respond: you could only pray to a person. Are conscious and feeling animals, like chimpanzees, dolphins, cats, dogs, chickens, pigs, and cows more relevantly like us, as persons, or are they more like rocks and cabbages, non -persons? Conscious and feeling animals seem to be closer to persons than not. 13 So, this 13 For a discussion of the nature of personhood, written by thirteen philos ophers, see Kristen Andrews, et al, Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers’ Brief (Routledge, 2018). This book addresses the general question of what persons are and applies plausible answers to the question of whether any chimpanzees are persons, and its discussion is applicable to que stions about fetal personhood . This book grew out of an amicus brief , written for judges to help them better understa nd the issues. For discussion of the relations between arguments about the “moral status” of non -human animals and the “moral status” of human fetuses, see Nathan Nobis’s (July 16, 2016) “Abortion and Animal Rights: Does Either Topic Lead to the Other ?” at the University of Colorado’s Center for Values and Social Policy blog What’s Wrong? 43 classificatory and explanatory activity further supports a psychological understanding of personhood: persons are, at root, conscious, aware and feeling beings. Concerning abortion, early fe tuses would not be persons on this account: they are not yet conscious or aware since their brains and nervous systems are either non -existent or insufficiently developed. Consciousness emerges in fetuses much later in pregnancy, likely after the first tri mester or a bit beyond. This is after when most abortions occur. Most abortions, then, do not involve killing a person , since the fetus has not developed the characteristics for personhood. We will briefly discuss later abortions, that potentially affect f etuses who are persons or close to it, below. It is perhaps worthwhile to notice though that if someone believed that fetuses are persons and thought this makes abortion wrong, it’s unclear how they could coherently believe that a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest could permissibly be ended by an abortion. Some who oppose abortion argue that, since you are a person, it would be wrong to kill you now even if you were conceived because of a rape, and so it’s wrong to kill any fetus who is a person, eve n if they exist because of a rape: whether someone is a person or not doesn’t depend on their origins: it would make no sense to think that, for two otherwise identical fetuses, one is a person but the other isn’t, because that one was conceived by rape. T herefore, those who accept a “personhood argument” against abortion, yet think that abortions in cases of rape are acceptable, seem to have an inconsistent view. 5.1.4 Fetuses are potential persons If fetuses aren’t persons, they are at least potential p ersons, meaning they could and would become persons. This is true. This, THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 44 however, doesn’t mean that they currently have the rights of persons because, in general, potential things of a kind don’t have the rights of actual things of that kind : potential doc tors, lawyers, judges, presidents, voters, veterans, adults, parents, spouses, graduates, moral reasoners and more don’t have the rights of actual individuals of those kinds. Some respond that potential gives the right to at least try to become something. But that trying sometimes involves the cooperation of others: if your friend is a potential medical student, but only if you tutor her for many hours a day, are you obligated to tutor her? If my child is a potential NASCAR champion, am I obligated to buy her a race car to practice? ‘No’ to both and so it is unclear that a pregnant woman would be obligated to provide what’s necessary to bring about a fetus’s potential. (More on that below, concerning the what obligations the right to life imposes on others, in terms of obligations to assist other people.) 5.1.5 Abortion prevents fetuses from experiencing their valuable futures The argument against abortion that is likely most -discussed by philosophers comes from philosopher Don Marquis. 14 He argues that it is wrong to kill us, typical adults and children, because it deprives us from experiencing our (expected to be) valuable futures, which is a great loss to us . He argues that since fetuses also have valuable futures (“futures like ours” h e calls them), they are also wrong to kill. His argument has much to recommend it, but there are reasons to doubt it as well. First, fetuses don’t seem to have futures like our futures , since — as they are pre -conscious — they are entirely 14 See Don Marquis ’s “Why Abortion is Immoral .” The Journal of Philosophy 86.4 (1989): 183 -202. 45 psychologically dis connected from any future experiences: there is no (even broken) chain of experiences from the fetus to that future person’s experiences. Babies are, at least, aware of the current moment, which leads to the next moment; children and adults think about and plan for their futures, but fetuses cannot do these things, being completely unconscious and without a mind. Second, this fact might even mean that the early fetus doesn’t literally have a future: if your future couldn’t include you being a merely physical, non -conscious object (e.g., you couldn’t be a corpse: if there’s a corpse, you are gone), then non -conscious physical objects, like a fetus, couldn’t literally be a future person. 15 If this is correct, early fetuses don’t even have futures, much less futures like ours. Something would have a future, like ours, only when there is someone there to be psychologically connected to that future: that someone arrives later in pregnancy, after when most abortions occur. A third objection is more abstract and depends on the “metaphysics” of objects. It begins with the observation that there are single objects with parts with space between them . Indeed almost every object is like this, if you could look close enough: it’s not just single dinet te sets, since there is literally some space between the parts of most physical objects. From this, it follows that there seem to be single objects such as an -egg -and -the – sperm -that -would -fertilize -it. And these would also seem to have 15 For discussion of this question of what you could and could not become, see Chad Vance’s “ Origin Essentialism: What Could Have Been Different about You? ” at 1000 -Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (1000Wor dPhilosophy.com ). For an introduction to the issue of how we continue to exist over time, despite the many physical, psychological and moral changes that occur to us, see Vance’s “ Personal Identity ” also at 1000 -Word Philosophy. This essay here presumes a psychological theory of personal identity and at least suggests some arguments in its favor and against bodily theories. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 46 a future of value, g iven how Marquis describes this concept. (It should be made clear that sperm and eggs alone do not have futures of value, and Marquis does not claim they do: this is not the objection here). The problem is that contraception, even by abstinence , prevents t hat thing’s future of value from materializing, and so seems to be wrong when we use Marquis’s reasoning . Since contraception is not wrong, but his general premise suggests that it is , it seems that preventing something from experiencing its valuable futur e isn’t always wrong and so Marquis’s argument appears to be unsound. 16 In sum, these are some of the most influential arguments against abortion. Our discussion was brief, but these arguments do not appear to be successful: they do not show that abortion is wrong, much less make it clear and obvious that abortion is wrong. 5.2 Arguments that abortion is often not wrong Now we turn to arguments that abortion is generally not wrong. 5.2.1 No good arguments that it is wrong A first argument depends on the discussion so far. If you are familiar with the most important and strongest arguments given to believe that abortion is wrong, and believe with good reason that they are unsound, then that gives a reason to think that abortion is not wrong. In general , a good reason to think that an action is permissible is that there is no good reason to think it’s 16 For more advanced discussion of some of the objectio ns considered in this section, see David Shoemaker’s “ Personal Identity and Ethics ”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). 47 wrong . How this general strategy is applied to this issue depends on your evaluation of the arguments above and any other arguments against abortion worthy of critical evaluation. 5.2.2 Early fetuses aren’t conscious & feeling: personhood and harm The next positive arguments in defense of abortion depend on the scientific facts about early fetuses that we have emphasized over and over: they are not consci ous, are not aware of anything, cannot feel anything, and so on: they are and have been entirely mindless so far. The proposal is that beings like this are very different from beings like us and babies and children, who are conscious: despite our being the same kind of beings in some ways, we are also different kinds of beings in other ways that are morally significant. These observations motivate these principles: ● If a being is and has always been completely unconscious , that being is definitely not a person. ● If some being is definitely not a person, then it’s not wrong to kill that being. This proposal is supported by, among other considerations and cases, the idea s that if someone permanently ceases to be a person (e.g., permanent, irreversible coma cases) or never becomes a person (e.g., anencephalic newborns) it can be permissible to bring about their death, perhaps even by killing their body, since their being alive is doing them no good. Cases like these are step s towards the above principles, which are related to this proposal: THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 48 ● If a being is and has always been completely unconscious , that being cannot be harmed , which requires a “turn for the worse” for that being . But there is no “for that being” for early fetuses yet, so things can’t get worse for them. So killing them doesn’t harm them or make them worse off, compared to how they were, since they never “were” in a conscious way. Given the fundamental moral significance of consciousness and all that results from that, the fact that early fetuses entirely lack it is arguably highly morally relevant to how they can be treated. 5.2.3 The right to life & the right to someone else’s body Finally, suppose much of the above is mistaken and that fetuses indeed are persons with the right to life. Some think that this clearly makes abortion wrong. Philosopher Ju dith Jarvis Thomson famously argued in 1971 that this isn’t so. 17 She observes that people often have a naive understanding of what the right to life is a right to. She makes her case with a number of clever examples, most famously, the “famous violinist”: You wake up in a hospital, “plugged in” to a famous violinist, who needs to use your kidneys to stay alive. You were kidnapped for this purpose. If you unplug, he will die. But it’s only for nine months. Does the violinist have a right to your kidneys? D o you violate his right to life if you unplug, and he dies? Most would say “no, ” which suggests that the right to life is not a right to anyone else’s 17 See Judith Jarvis Thomson ’s “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1971): 47 -66 . 49 body, even if that body is necessary for your life to continue . This suggests that, even if fetuses were persons with the right to life, they would not have a right to the pregnant woman’s body: only the woman herself has that right. So until there is a way to remove fetuses and place them in other wombs, abortion would be permissible, given women’s rights t o their own bodies and related rights to autonomy and self -determination, especially about matters concerning reproduction, among other relevant rights. This discussion also suggests another definition of abortion: ● Definition 4: Abortion is the intention al withholding of what a fetus needs to live, to end a pregnancy. Thomson’s insights are not without controversy, however. Some respond the violinist case is somewhat like a pregnancy that results from rape, since there’s no consent involved, but claim that pregnancies that don’t result from rape do give fetuses the right to the woman’s body because, they argue, the woman has done something that she knows might result in someone existing who is dependent on her. Thomson, however, had other cases that part ially address this type of concern: e.g., if someone falls in your house because you opened a window, they don’t have the right to be there, even though you did something that contributed to their being there; and, more imaginatively, if people sprouted fr om “people seeds” floating in the air, and you tried to keep them out of your house but one managed to get in and became dependent on your carpet for its gestation, that resulting person would not have a right to be there, despite you r having done somethin g that led to that person’s existence. We should also notice that the claim that doing something that THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 50 results in the existence of something uniquely dependent on you grants that something rights to your assistance might be question -begging. Compare doing something that results in the existence of a new plant or dish or random cells that is dependent on you: you wouldn’t be obligated to provide for that plant or cells. To assume that things are different with fetuses is, well, to assume what can’t be merely assumed, especially if we don’t already believe that early fetuses are persons with the right to life. Thomson assumed fetal personhood for the sake of argument to illustrate her claims about the right to life, but the facts of the matter — that early fetuses arguably aren’t persons or have characteristics that make them have a right to life — is surely relevant to assessing this type of claim when applied to actual cases of pregnancy. It should be made clear though th at even if the fetus doesn’t have a right to the pregnant woman’s body, there could be other rights or other obligations that could make abortion wrong nevertheless: e.g., if pregnancy were just 9 hours perhaps women would be obligated to be Good Samaritan s towards them, even if fetuses didn’t have a right to the woman’s resources and assistance: ethics isn’t just about not violating rights. What’s important here is th at right s to life and personhood are not the “slam dunk” against abortion, so to speak, th at people often think they are: things are more complicated than that. 5.2.4 “What ifs”: rape and later -term abortions We are now in a good position to address some of the “what ifs” we set aside earlier. First, rape: if early abortions are generally not wrong, then early abortions due to rape are especially not wrong. While people sometimes consider rape a special excuse that justifies 51 abortion, if abortions generally aren’t wrong, no special excuse is needed. (It is worthwhile to again observe that t hose who think that all fetuses are persons and so argue that abortion is wrong should think abortion is wrong in cases of rape also, since a person is a person, irrespective of their origins.) Second, later -term abortions: these might affect conscious an d feeling fetuses, who could be persons or close to it. Fortunately, the best evidence suggests that these abortions are rare and done only for justifying medical reasons (Google for harrowing personal stories of women having later abortions due to medical difficulties, including fetal abnormalities incompatible with life). If any far later abortions are done for frivolous reasons, they could be morally wrong, since it’s wrong to cause serious pain for no good reason. 18 The best response here is to ensure th at any abortions that can be done earl ier in pregnancy are done earlier, before the fetus is conscious and feeling . Should laws be created to ban any potential later abortions done for trivial reasons? Again, not all wrongdoing should be illegal, but — most importantly — a ban on these potential abortions would surely have a negative impact on actual later 18 Some people insist that late term abortions are never done for frivolous reasons, that women considering late -term abortions (and abortion providers) would only do them for very weighty, seri ous reasons. While we can hope this is true, we are unsure whether there is excellent evidence to believe this. After all, there are people involved here, and people are known to sometimes be utterly indifferent to even the worst cruelty and wrongdoing: daily examples of individual actions, and actions done by representatives of governments, confirm this. So although it is unlikely that anyone ever has a very late abortion for trivial reason s, we don’t know how unlikely this is. Indeed, if there are some women having late -term abortions for frivolous reasons, they may be doing so secretly. Once the fetus reaches viability, there are many, many more restrictions placed on abortions at both the state and federal levels. Thus, frivolous late -term abortions, if and when they happen, are likely to be done outside of the US or in sub -legal, unofficial settings. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 52 abortions done for legitimate medical reasons. If the justifiability of any later abortion had to be proven in court, or people had to go through the crimin al justice system to approve an emergency medical procedure, that would have very bad effects, given the speed, inefficiency and occasional incompetence of courts and the criminal justice system. Bringing the police and judges into private medical decision s would be very bad for all, especially vulnerable groups: people of color, immigrants, poor people, and pregnant women generally. There are, of course, other “what ifs” asked about abortion, and we encourage the reader to identify those and carefully eva luate the arguments given about abortions in those unique circumstances. In sum, these are some of the more influential considerations given in support of the view that abortion is generally not wrong if done early in pregnancy , as well as reasons to believe that far later abortions could be morally problematic . These arguments often involve applications of answers to general moral (and legal) questions, such as: what makes killing us wrong , and what makes something (or someone) relevantly similar to “us”? What is the right to life a right to, and a right from ? What is to be a person , and what’s the moral significance of personhood ? What should be legal and what should be illegal ? These arguments are also often developed in response to arguments against abortion and their implications for other ethical issues . Clearly , abortion is a complex issue , and so responsib ly-developed arguments about it will engage that complexity with insight and, we hope, wisdom . 53 6 Conclusion For important issues, we need well -developed reasons or arguments to decide what to believe and do about the issues. Many people say they just “feel” that abortion is wrong or their “opinion” is that it’s not wrong. But complex issues require informed, fair and honest critical thinking, not just mere “feelings” or “opini ons,” and we hope this essay has modeled this type of systematic and serious engagement with the arguments and evidence. We hope that readers’ reflective observations about how we have stated and evaluated arguments will help them improve their own skills at engaging arguments on this and other issues, on their own and in discussion with others. We have focused on disagreements about abortion, but we want to end on an agreement. Everyone agrees there should be fewer abortions. Even people who believe abort ions are generally not wrong don’t think that having an abortion is just a great way to spend time and resources. So everyone could agree that we, as a society, should do more to reduce the “demand” for abortions: we could address the many causes that lead women to seek abortions. 19 Some other countries don’t have as many abortions as the US does. In many cases this is because of deliberate choices they have made to make their countries more supportive of all of their citizens and make it easier for them to meet their economic, medical and familial needs. We too could be Good Samaritans, in these ways and more. This would be very good, not just for this issue but for who we are as people. 19 For examples, see this 2012 Washington University Press release “Access to free birth control reduces abortion rates ” and the Guttmacher Institute’s 2016 “ New Clarity for the U.S. Abortion Debate: A Steep Drop in Unintended Pregnancy Is Driving Recent Abortion Declines ,” and other proposals for what types of efforts would reduce the number of abort ions. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 54 55 7 For Further Reading These three widely -reprinted articles are the seminal philosophical writings on abortion: ● Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1971): 47 -66 . ● Warren, Mary Anne. “On the Moral and Le gal Status of Abortion.” The Monist (1973): 43 -61 . ● Marquis, Don. “Why Abortion Is Immoral.” The Journal of Philosophy 86, no. 4 (1989): 183 -202 . David Boonin’s A Defense of Abortion provides a comprehensive and systematic critical overview of many arguments about abortion, and argues in defense of abortion: ● Boonin, David. A Defense of Abortion . Cambridge University Press, 2003 And see his more recent book on abortion : ● Boonin, David. Beyond Roe: Why Abortion Should be Legal — Even if the Fetus is a Person . Oxford University Press, 2019 . Richard Feldman’s Reason & Argument is the best “critical thinking” and argument identification and analysis text available: ● Feldman, Richard. Reason & Argument , 2nd edition. Pearson / Prentice Hall, 1998 . And here are some other introductory readings by Nat han Nobis , and Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob, on abortion : THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 56 ● “Ethics and Abortion ” at 1000 -Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (1000WordPhilosophy.com ). ● “Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law ” in Bob Fischer’s Ethics: Left and Right (Oxford University Press, forthcoming): this is, basically, a shorter, earlier vers ion of this book. ● “Thinking Critically About Abortion ” at Decaturish.com (2019): a philosophical letter to the editor for a Georgia newspaper. ● “Common Arguments about Abortion ” and “ Better (Philosophical) Argumen ts about Abortion ,” by Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob, in Noah Levin, ed., Introduction to Ethics: An Open Educational Resource (NGE Far Press, 2019) [both chapters ]. This book is a development and exp ansion of these chapters. 57 8 Discussion Questions 1. Better and worse thinking : a goal of this book is, among other things, to try to help improve the quality of discussion on the topic of abortion. a. What would it look like to think about abortion in better ways? What would it look like to think about abortion in worse ways? What are some examples of each? Who are some people (or arguments) you’ve encountered that represent “better” and “worse” thinking in the ways you’ve described? Where are you and your thinking on these concerns, and how might you improve, if you should ? b. What knowl edge, skills, and attitudes and anything else are apt to make someone a better thinker on this topic? What are apt to make someone a worse thinker about abortion? Can people gain these attitudes or skills? How? 2. Knowing others’ views : abortion is a topic where people tend to not know or understand the views of people who they disagree with. a. Why are people often unfamiliar with what other people think about these topics and their reasons ? b. If you have views on the topic of abortion, do you know what people with different views from you think and say about that topic? If you told them, “Here is what you think, and here are your reasons for thinking it” would they agree that you THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 58 understand their view? (Try this, perhaps at home!). If your answer is “no, ” is this a problem? Why or why not? 3. Methods and techniques : the authors suggest that “critical thinking” involves carefully defining words, carefully and fully stating arguments , and thinking about what best explains things, such as some common moral bel iefs, to be in a better position to decide whether we should accept some claim or not. a. Are these useful methods? If so, why? b. What other techniques or skills or perspectives are useful for critical thinking, especially about abortion? c. What can be done to encourage the use of these types of methods in thinking? 4. Definitions : this essay begins by reviewing three definitions of abortion and argues that one definition is best, compared to the others. a. Which definition of abortion do you think is best? Why? b. Later, in the discussion of Judith Thomson and the right to life, the essay presents a fourth definition: is that a good or bad definition ? c. Are there other definitions of abortion worth discussing? Are any other definitions good definitions? Are any bad? Why? 59 5. Question -begging arguments : this type of arguments involve circular reasoning and assuming the conclusion that the person is trying t o argue for. This type of argument is common on all “sides” of the issue, as well as other issues. a. Why are question -begging arguments so common? Why do people give them? Why don’t they realize that these arguments are poor? b. What are some other question -begging arguments given about abortion, beyond those discussed in this essay? c. How can question -begging arguments be avoided? 6. “Everyday arguments” : this essay reviews many common arguments, given by many people, on the topic, on all sides, and argues that these aren’t good arguments. a. What are some other common arguments (ideally, not question -begging arguments) that often hear about abortion? Are they good or bad arguments? Why? b. If these arguments are indeed bad, why do people keep giving them? What can be done to help people realize this and “move on” to better arguments? 7. Abortion and religion: people’s views on abortion are sometimes thought of as determined by their religious views. THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 60 a. Is this true, meaning if you are of some religion, must you accept a certain view about abortion? Or does each major religion usually have some “internal” disagreements on this issue? How do members of these religions explain this disagreement? Are their e xplanations convincing? b. Are there any problems “linking” the topic of abortion with any particular religious perspectives, morally or legally? c. Are there any benefits in “linking” the topic of abortion with any religious perspectives, morally or legally? 8. “Philosophers’ arguments” : this essay discusses the main arguments presented by philosophers on the issue. These are the typical arguments addressed in an Introductio n to Ethics, Contemporary Moral Problems or even Introduction to Philosophy or Critical Thinking course. a. Which of the arguments that this essay reports that philosophers tend to focus on are familiar to you, and which are unfamiliar, if any? b. Are there an y that you don’t think you really understand and have questions about? c. Which seem to be good arguments, and what seem to be bad arguments? Why? d. Are there any other arguments that you think are important but were overlooked? If so, are these arguments goo d or bad arguments? Why? 61 9. “Persons” and “personhood” : many people assume that the question of whether fetuses are persons is the core moral and legal concern about abortion. a. If you asked other people what “persons” are, how would they probably answer? Ar e their answers good answers? b. What are the strengths to the proposal about what persons are , what the “essence” of personhood is, that is presented in this essay? What are the weaknesses, if any? c. This definition of persons is developed from clear cases of persons or beings that exhibit personhood. Suppose someone says they think embryos and early fetuses clearly are persons and so they will build that into their definition of personhood. Is there any problem with that claim and maneuver? That is, are there any difficulties or challenges in making that claim, if the goal is to determine what, in general , persons are? (Is this claim question – begging? Does this claim help explain why we are persons? Does it help us understand why personified beings exhibit per sonhood?) d. When, if ever, does someone’s “potential” give them rights to something? e. This is discussed below, but does being a person give you a right to another person’s body, or make it such they must help you, irrespective of the cost to themselves (and w hat costs are too high, if any?)? In short, how important is fetuses being persons, or not being persons, to the overall debate about abortion? THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 62 10. “Essences” and “kinds” : some argue that us, say readers of this essay, and embryos and fetuses are the same “ki nd” of being, that we have the same “essence ,” essential characteristics or “nature .” Your essence is what it is about you such that, if you “lost” it, you would cease to exist: if you have socks on now, this fact about you is not part of your essence, sin ce you continue to exist even if you took your socks off! a. What is your essence? What qualities or characteristics make you you , and so if these were lost, you would no longer exist? How do you figure this out? b. What, if anything, is the essence of human fetuses? How can you tell? How many answers are there to the question, “What kind of beings are fetuses?” c. Do us and fetuses have the same essence? Are we the same kind of being? Are we also different kinds of bein gs? Which “kind” of being(s) determines how something or someone should be treated? d. If you were to die tomorrow, is there anything about “you” or your “essence” that remains? (possibly your reputation, legacy, in other people’s memories, etc.?) Is this the case for a fetus? 11. The “right to life” : most people believe they have the right to life, or are otherwise wrong to kill (unless there is a very, very good reason to do so , like an exceptional circumstance that they hope to never be in!). 63 a. If you asked people why they have the right to life, how would they probably answer? Are their answers good answers? b. What are the strengths to the proposal(s) about what the right to li fe is, and why we have it, are that are presented in this essay? What are the weaknesses, if any? c. When, if ever, would someone have a right to someone else’s body? How could they come to have that right? Could someone legitimately give someone else that r ight? If so, how? 12. Factual information : this essay provides some brief factual information about fetal development and when and why abortions occur. a. How would the authors ’ arguments change if this information is wildly incorrect? For example, what if fet uses become conscious far, far earlier than current evidence suggests they do? What if most abortions happened far, far later than they do? b. What if all abortions were done very early in pregnancy, not just most of them? Would that change the nature of the debate in any ways? c. Suppose someone thought this information was incorrect and the sources unreliable: how could they try to demonstrate this? What are apt to be the most reliable and accurate sources on these factual matters? If sources disagree on these factual matters, how do we try to figure out which is correct? THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT ABORTION 64 13. The law: abortion is both an ethical or moral issue, and a question about what laws we should have, what actions should be criminalized, and what we should allow as a society. a. Some wrong act ions are, and should be, illegal. Other wrong actions are not illegal and should not be illegal. When, in general, should actions be illegal and criminalized? When, in general, should an action be legal? b. The authors argue that if later abortions were illeg al, that could have bad effects for women who need later abortions for medical reasons. Do you agree? Why or why not? How likely is this potential problem? Do you see any way to make any abortions illegal without having this result? ABOUT THE AUTHOR S Nathan Nobis, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author and co – author of many articles, chapters and other writings in ethics and philos ophy. www.NathanNobis.com Kristina Grob, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina Sumter. Her interests include ethics and moral development. Each semes ter she shows students that philosophy can be a way of life, no matter their day jobs.
Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
Philosophical Arguments on Abortion (15 minutes) A short reading from 1000-Word Philosophy that reviews some of the more influential distinctly philosophical arguments on abortion: The Ethics of Abortion Author: Nathan Nobis Category: EthicsWord Count: 1000 Abortion involves the intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy. These fetuses are human, biologically.1 It seems that fetuses are beings, although completely dependent beings: what else would they be? So, abortion involves the killing of a being that is biologically human. Killing human beings is often deeply wrong, so is abortion wrong? If so, when? And why? Here we will review some influential philosophical answers to these questions. 1. Human Organisms? Fetuses are not just biologically alive, like cells or organs. They are lives; each is a human life. Some argue that this is because they are organisms: while hearts are parts of beings, the being is the whole organism. Fetuses seem to be “beings” on this definition: they are complex and developing. Some thinkers argue that our being human organisms physically continuous with fetuses who were human organisms makes abortion wrong.2 They seem to argue that since it is wrong to kill us now, i.e., we have properties that make it wrong to kill us now (prima facie wrong to kill: wrong unless extreme circumstances justify the killing), it was wrong to kill us at any stage of our development, since we’ve been the same organism, the same being, throughout our existence. While this argument is influential in some circles, it is nevertheless dubious. You are likely over three feet tall now, but weren’t always. You can reason morally, but couldn’t always. You have the right to make autonomous decisions about your own life, but didn’t always. Many examples show that just because we have some property or right now, that doesn’t entail that we’ve always had that right. This argument’s advocates need to plausibly explain why, say, the right to life is an exception to this rule.3 2. (Human) Persons? We, readers of this essay, are human beings (unless there are any extraterrestrial readers!), and it is prima facie wrong to kill us. Is the reason why it wrong to kill us because we are human beings? Perhaps not. It is wrong to kill us, arguably, because killing us prevents us from experiencing the goods of our future: accomplishments, relationships, enjoying our lives and so on, which is distinct from being a human being. Many philosophers describe these capacities needed for experiencing our lives, present and future, in terms of us being persons.4 A theory present from at least the time of John Locke can be expressed roughly as: persons are beings with personalities: persons are conscious beings with thoughts, feelings, memories, anticipations and other psychological states. (When people insist, mistakenly, that fetuses aren’t human beings, they might be claiming that they are not human persons). If we die or even become permanently comatose, we cease to be persons, since we permanently lose consciousness. This theory of personhood has explanatory power: it helps us understand why we are persons and how we (or our bodies) can cease to be persons. It justifies a growing belief that some non-human animals are (non-human) persons. It explains why rational space aliens, if there are any, would be (non-human) persons. It explains why divine or spiritual beings are or would be (non-human) persons. On this theory of personhood, early fetuses are not persons. This is because their brains and nervous systems aren’t sufficiently developed and complexly interconnected enough for consciousness and personhood. The medical and scientific research reports that this developmental stage isn’t reached until after the first trimester, or, more likely, until mid-pregnancy.5 Nearly all abortions occur very early in pregnancy, killing fetuses that are not yet conscious, and so are not yet persons, on this theory of personhood. Any later abortions, affecting conscious and feeling fetuses who are persons or close to it, however, would likely be wrong unless done for a justifying medical reason. 3. Potential Personhood? But just because something (or someone) is not a person, that doesn’t obviously mean that it is not wrong to kill them. If fetuses aren’t persons, they are still potential persons. (And merely potential persons are never actual persons).  Does that potential give fetuses, say, the right to life or otherwise make it wrong to kill them? If potential things have the rights of actual things, then potential adults, spouses, criminals, doctors, and judges would have the rights of actual ones. Since they don’t, it is plausible that potential personhood doesn’t yield the rights of actual personhood. At least, we are due an explanation of why it would, since potentiality never does that for anything else. 4. Valuable Futures? Doesn’t abortion prevent a fetus from experiencing its valuable future, just like killing us does, even if it is not yet a person?6 But aren’t our futures valuable, in part, because we can, presently, look forward to them? Fetuses have no awareness of their futures whatsoever, and this is one important difference between their futures and our futures. Further, an egg-and-a-sperm-that-would-fertilize-it arguably has a future akin to that of a fetus. Contraception (even by abstinence!) keeps this future from materializing.8 But contraception and abstinence aren’t wrong. Thus, it is not wrong to perform some action that prevents such a future from materializing. 5. The Right to Life? Finally, suppose these arguments are all wrong and all fetuses are persons with the right to life. Does that make abortion wrong? Not necessarily, Judith Thomson famously argued in her 1971 “A Defense of Abortion.”9 If I must use your kidney to stay alive, do I have a right to your kidney? No, and you don’t violate my rights if you don’t let me use it and I die. This shows that the right to life is not a right to bodies of others, even if those bodies are necessary for our lives to continue. Fetuses, then, might not have a right to the pregnant woman’s body and so she doesn’t violate their rights by not allowing a fetus to use it. So until fetuses can be removed from women and placed in new wombs, abortion may not violate the rights of fetuses and may be permissible. 6. Conclusion The philosophical issue of the moral status of abortion is complex and these are just a few philosophical arguments on the issue. Each argument, and many others, are worthy of further discussion and reasoned debate. Notes 1 Unless we are doing veterinary ethics and are thinking about aborting feline or canine or other non-human fetuses. 2 This argument is developed in Beckwith (2007), and in George and Tollefsen (2008). This presentation here is based on Beckwith’s emphasis that fetuses and the adults they often later become are the “same being.” These arguments, however, can be interpreted in a more complex way, in which we understand them as arguing that having rights, or the properties that result in having rights, is essential to human beings, meaning that we have rights whenever we exist (and so since a fetus and the later adult are the “same being” they have rights whenever they exist). This more sophisticated argument is not discussed here.  3 This response is developed in Boonin (2003) and in Nobis (2011) 4 This influential theory of personhood is developed in Warren (1973). 5 Lee, Susan J., et al. (2005) and Benatar and Benatar (2001) 6 This argument is developed in Marquis (1989). 7 For development of these arguments, see McMahan (2002). 8 For development of these arguments, see Norcross (1990). 9 Thomson (1971) References Beckwith, Francis J. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice. Cambridge University Press, 2007 Benatar, David, and Michael Benatar. “A Pain in the Fetus: Toward Ending Confusion about Fetal Pain.” Bioethics 15 (2001): 57-76 Boonin, David. A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge University Press, 2003 George, Robert P. and Christopher Tollefsen. Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. Doubleday, 2008 Lee, Susan J., et al. “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence.” Jama 294.8 (2005): 947-954 Marquis, Don. “Why Abortion is Immoral.” The Journal of Philosophy 86.4 (1989): 183-202 McMahan, Jeff. The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life. Oxford University Press, 2002 Nobis, Nathan. “Abortion, Metaphysics and Morality: A Review of Francis Beckwith’s Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36.3 (2011): 261-273 Norcross, Alastair. “Killing, Abortion, and Contraception: A Reply to Marquis.”The Journal of Philosophy (1990): 268-277 Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy & Public Affairs(1971): 47-66 Warren, Mary Anne. “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion.” The Monist(1973): 43-61 Related Essays Applied Ethics by Chelsea Haramia The Badness of Death by Duncan Purves Personal Identity by Chad Vance Are We Animals? Animalism and Personal Identity by Kristin Seemuth Whaley The Non-Identity Problem by Duncan Purves Is Death Bad? Epicurus and Lucretius on the Fear of Death by Frederik Kaufman Principlism in Biomedical Ethics: Respect for Autonomy, Non-Maleficence, Beneficence, and Justice by G. M. Trujillo, Jr. PDF Download Download this essay in PDF.  About the Author Nathan Nobis, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA. He is the author of Animals & Ethics 101, co-author of Thinking Critically About Abortion, a co-author of Chimpanzee Rights and author or co-author of many other articles, chapters, and reviews in philosophy and ethics. www.NathanNobis.com Follow 1000-Word Philosophy on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to receive email notifications of new essays at the bottom of 1000WordPhilosophy.com
Each response should be at least 150 words. State at least one interesting and what you consider intellectually challenging argument given about ethics and abortion from the course materials. Try to s
FROM THE ACADEMY Position Paper Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets ABSTRACT It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetar- ians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich infiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduc- tion of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. POSITION STATEMENT It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. V EGETARIAN AND VEGAN dietary patterns can be quite diversebecauseofthevari- ety of food choices available and the different factors that moti- vate people to adopt such patterns. People choose to adopt a vegetarian diet for many reasons, such as compassion toward animals, a desire to better protect the environment, to lower their risk of chronic diseases, or to therapeutically manage those dis- eases. A well-planned vegetarian diet containing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds can provide adequate nutrition. Vege- tarian diets are devoid offlesh foods (such as meat, poultry, wild game, seafood, and their products). The most commonly followed vegetarian diets are shown inFigure 1.The adoption of a vegetarian diet may cause a reduced intake of certain nutrients; however, deficiencies can be readily avoided by appropriate planning. VEGETARIAN DIETS IN PERSPECTIVE Trends among Vegetarians According to a nationwide poll in 2016, approximately 3.3% of American adults are vegetarian or vegan (never eat meat, poultry, orfish), and about 46% of vegetarians are vegan. 1The same poll revealed that 6% of young adults (18 to 34 years) are vegetarian or vegan, while only 2% of those 65 years or older are vegetarian. Sales of alternative meat products reached $553 million in 2012, an 8% increase in 2 years. It was observed that 36% of survey responders sought vegan meat alternatives, largely from among the 18- to 44-year-old age group. 1, 2 While whole plant foods serve best as dietary staples, some processed and fortified foods, such as nondairy beverages, meat analogs, and breakfast cereals, can contribute substantially to the nutrient intake of vegetarians. Plant-based diets, including vege- tarian and vegan diets, are becoming well accepted, as further evidenced by many nonprofit and government institutions highlighting this dietary choice. The American Institute for Cancer Research encourages a plant- based diet, suggesting Americans consume two-thirds of their dietaryintake from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. 3In the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, vegetarian diets are recommended as one of three healthful dietary patterns, and meal plans are provided for those following lacto-ovo-vegetarian and vegan diets. 4 The National School Lunch Program, while not requiring vegetarian options per se, requires schools to increase availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in current meal patterns in the school menu. Those following a vegetarian diet now have technological support. To date, while no online nutrition food tracker exists strictly for vegetarian diets, some allow clients to select vegetarian and vegan plans. These applications for mo- bile devices allow vegetarians to discover nutritional needs, track intake, and locate restaurants and markets where vegan foods are available. The online tracking tool atwww.SuperTracker.usda. govis a part of the US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate program. 5 NUTRITION CONSIDERATIONS FOR VEGETARIANS Protein Vegetarian, including vegan, diets typically meet or exceed recommended 2212-2672/Copyrightª2016 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025 1970JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICSª2016 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate. 6-8 The termscomplete andincompleteare misleading in rela- tion to plant protein. Protein from a variety of plant foods, eaten during the course of a day, supplies enough of all indispensable (essential) amino acids when caloric requirements are met. 7 The regular use of legumes and soy products will ensure an adequate pro- tein intake for the vegetarian, as well as providing other essential nutrients. 9 Fruitarian diets are normally low in protein and other nutrients. Protein needs at all ages, including those for athletes, are well achieved by balanced vegetarian diets. 7, 8 n-3 Fatty Acids While a-linolenic acid (ALA) intakes of vegetarians and vegans are similar to those of nonvegetarians, dietary intakes of the long-chain n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are lower in vegetarians and typically absent in vegans. 10 ,11 Compared withnonvegetarians, blood and tissue levels of EPA and DHA can be significantly lower. 10 ,11 The clinical relevance of reduced EPA and DHA status among vegetarians and vegans is unknown. 11,1 2 Long-chain n-3 fatty acids are important for the development and maintenance of the brain, retina, and cell membranes and favorably impact pregnancy outcomes and risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other chronic diseases. 6,13,14 Yet, vegetarian and vegan children do not appear to experience impairment in visual or mental development, and vegetarian and vegan adults experi- ence reduced risk for CVD. 10 ,11,15 ALA is endogenously converted to EPA and DHA, but the process is somewhat inefficient and is affected by sex, dietary composition, health status, and age. High intakes of linoleic acid (LA) may suppress ALA conversion. 11,13 A ratio of LA/ALA not exceeding 4:1 has been suggested for optimal conversion. 7,10 ,14 The Dietary Reference Intake for ALA are 1.6 g/day and 1.1 g/day, for men and women, respectively. 4For vegetarians and vegans, it may be prudent to ensure somewhat higher intakes of ALA. 8,10 The most concentrated plant sources of n-3 fatty acids are seeds (flax, chia, camelina, canola, and hemp), walnuts, and their oils. 8,10 Evi- dence suggests that n-3 needs of healthy individuals can be met with ALA alone, and that endogenous syn- thesis of EPA and DHA from ALA is sufficient to keep levels stable over many years. 11,14 Low-dose micro- algae based DHA supplements are available for all vegetarians with increased needs (eg, pregnant or lactating women) or with reduced conversion ability (eg, those with hypertension or diabetes). 10 Iron Vegetarians generally consume as much iron as, or slightly more than, omnivores. 16 Despite having similar iron intakes,17the iron stores of vege- tarians are typically below those of nonvegetarians. Lower serum ferritin levels may be an advantage because elevated serum ferritin levels have independently been associated with the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. 18 Concerns about the iron status of vegetarians have led to questions of bioavailability of non-heme iron from plant foods. Non-heme iron absorption depends upon physiological need and is regulated in part by iron stores. Its absorption can vary greatly, depending upon both the meal composition and the iron status of the individual. Bioavailability of non-heme iron is impacted by the ratio of inhibitors, such as phytates and polyphenolics, and enhancers, such as vitamin C, citric acid, and other organic acids. 19 In a recent review, non-heme iron absorption was seen to vary from 1% to 23%, depending upon iron status and dietary enhancers and inhibitors. 20 A newly developed regression equa- tion enables iron absorption to be predicted from serum ferritin levels and dietary modifiers. Diet had a greater effect on iron absorption when serum ferritin levels were low. 20 Nonheme iron absorption can be as much as 10 times greater in iron- deficient individuals compared with iron-replete individuals. The Dietary Reference Intake assigned to iron for vegetarians in 2001 was 80% more than that for non- vegetarians. This derives from the assumption that the bioavailability of iron from a vegetarian diet is 10%, whereas that from a nonvegetarian diet is 18%. 21 These assumptions were based on very limited data using single-meal absorption studies involving meals that were atypical of what most vegetarians consume in Western countries. We now know that individuals can adapt and absorb non-heme iron more effectively. 22 The magnitude of the effect of enhancers and inhibitors of iron absorption can diminish with time. 23 Individuals are able to adapt to low intakes of iron over time and can reduce iron losses. 24In one study, total iron absorption significantly increased by almost 40% after 10 weeks of consuming the low-bioavailability diet. 22 Individuals with low iron status can substantially increase their iron absorption from diets with moderate to high iron bioavailability. The absorp- tion process appears to adapt effec- tively in the case of Western vegetarians because their hemoglobin values and most other measures of iron Type of diet Nature of diet (all are devoid offlesh foods) Vegetarian May or may not include egg or dairy products. Lacto-ovo- vegetarianIncludes eggs and dairy products. Lacto- vegetarianIncludes dairy products, but not egg products. Ovo- vegetarianIncludes eggs and egg products, but no dairy. Vegan Excludes eggs and dairy products, and may exclude honey. Raw vegan Based on vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes, and sprouted grains. The amount of uncooked food varies from 75% to 100%. Figure 1.Types of vegetarian diets. FROM THE ACADEMY December 2016 Volume 116 Number 12JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS1971 status are similar to those values seen in nonvegetarians. 7 Zinc Compared with nonvegetarian control groups, studies show adult vegetarians have dietary zinc intakes that are similar or somewhat lower, and serum zinc concentrations that are lower but within the normal range. 7,25 There do not appear to be any adverse health consequences in adult vegetarians that are attributable to a lower zinc status, possibly due to homeostatic mecha- nisms that allow adults to adapt to a vegetarian diet. Overt zinc deficiency is not evident in Western vegetarians. For the most at-risk members of the population (older adults, children, and pregnant and lactating women), there is insufficient evidence to deter- mine whether zinc status is lower in vegetarians compared with non- vegetarians. 25 Zinc sources for the vegetarian include soy products, legumes, grains, cheese, seeds, and nuts. Food preparation techniques, such as soaking and sprouting beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as leavening bread, can reduce binding of zinc by phytic acid and increase zinc bioavailability. 26 Organic acids, such as citric acid, also can enhance zinc absorption to some extent. 26 Iodine Because plant-based diets can be low in iodine, vegans who do not consume key vegan sources of iodine, such as iodized salt or sea vegetables, may be at risk for iodine deficiency. 7,27 The iodine content of sea vegetables varies widely and some may contain sub- stantial amounts of iodine. 28 Intakes should not exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 1,100 mg for adults. 29 Vegan women of child-bearing age should supplement with 150 mg/day iodine. 27,29 Sea salt, kosher salt, and salty seasonings, such as tamari, are generally not iodized, 7and iodized salt is not used in processed foods. Dairy products may contain iodine, although amounts can vary considerable. 7 Although foods such as soybeans, cruciferous vegetables, and sweet potatoes contain natural goitrogens, these foods have not been associated with thyroid insufficiency in healthy people, provided that iodine intake is adequate. 7,8,29,30 Calcium Intakes of lacto-ovo-vegetarians typi- cally meet or exceed calcium recom- mendations, while calcium intakes of vegans vary widely and sometimes fall below recommendations. 7 Bioavail- ability of calcium from plant foods, which is related to oxalate content of foods and, to a lesser degree, phytate andfiber, is an important consideration. Fractional absorption from high-oxalate vegetables, such as spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard, may be as low 5%. Thus, these cannot be considered good sources of calcium, despite their high calcium content. In comparison, ab- sorption from low-oxalate vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage, and bok choy, is about 50%. 31 Absorption from calcium-set tofu (made with a calcium salt) and from most fortified plant milks is similar to that from cow’s milk, at approximately 30%. 32,33 Other plant foods, such as white beans, almonds, tahini,figs, and oranges, provide moderate amounts of calcium with somewhat lower bioavailability (about 20%). Comparing forms of calcium used for fortification, bioavailability of calcium-citrate- malate can be at least 36%, while others are about 30%. 34Registered die- titian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) can help clients meet calcium needs by encouraging regular con- sumption of good calcium sources and, when necessary, low-dose calcium supplements. Vitamin D Vitamin D status depends on sunlight exposure and intake of vitamin Defortified foods or supplements. 35 The extent of cutaneous vitamin D production after sunlight exposure is highly variable and is dependent on a number of factors, including the time of day, season, latitude, air pollution, skin pigmentation, sunscreen use, amount of clothing covering the skin, and age. 35,36 Low vitamin D intakes have been reported in some vegetar- ians and vegans, as well as low plasma or serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, the latter especially when the blood was collected in the winter or spring, and especially in those living at high latitudes. 36 Dietary and supplemental sources of vitamin D are commonly required to meet the needs of thisnutrient. Foods that are fortified with vitamin D include cow’s milk, some nondairy milks, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, and margarines. Eggs may also provide some vitamin D. Mushrooms treated with ultraviolet light can be significant sources of vitamin D. 36,37 Both vitamin D-2 and vitamin D-3 are used in supplements and to fortify foods. Vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol) may be of plant or animal origin, while vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) is pro- duced from the ultraviolet irradiation of ergosterol from yeast. At low doses, vitamin D-2 and vitamin D-3 appear to be equivalent, but at higher doses vitamin D-2 appears to be less effective than vitamin D-3. 36If sun exposure and intake of fortified foods are insufficient to meet needs, vitamin D supplements are recommended, especially for the older adults. 35,36,38 Because vitamin D influences a large number of metabolic pathways beyond bone meta- bolism, 35,38 some experts recommend daily intakes of vitamin D of 1,000 to 2,000 IU, or even more. Vitamin B-12 Vitamin B-12 is not a component of plant foods. 7,39 Fermented foods (such as tempeh), nori, spirulina, chlorella algae, and unfortified nutritional yeast cannot be relied upon as adequate or practical sources of B-12. 39,40 Vegans must regularly consume reliable sour- ces—meaning B-12 fortified foods or B-12 containing supplements—or they could become deficient, as shown in case studies of vegan infants, children, and adults. 8,39 Most vegetarians should include these reliable B-12 sources because 1 cup of milk and one egg per day only provides about two-thirds of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). 7,39,40 Early symptoms of a severe B-12 deficiency are unusual fatigue, tingling in thefingers or toes, poor cognition, poor digestion, and failure to thrive in small children. A subclinical B-12 defi- ciency results in elevated homocyste- ine. People with little or no B-12 intake may feel healthy; however, long-term subclinical deficiency can lead to stroke, dementia, and poor bone health. 7,8,41 Laboratory tests to assess vitamin B-12 status include serum methylmalonic acid, serum or plasma B-12, and serum holo-transcobalamin (Holo-TC or Holo-TCII). 8,39,41 FROM THE ACADEMY 1972JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICSDecember 2016 Volume 116 Number 12 The normal mechanism for B-12 absorption is via the intrinsic factor, which becomes saturated at about half the RDA and requires 4 to 6 hours before further absorption. 40 Hence, fortified foods are best eaten twice during the course of a day. A second absorption mechanism is passive diffusion at a rate of 1%, allowing less- frequent consumption of large supple- mental doses. Recommendations based on large doses have been made (eg, 500 to 1,000 mg cyanocobalamin several times per week). 8,39 The four forms of B-12 are differen- tiated by their attached groups. Cyanocobalamin is most commonly used in fortified foods and supple- ments because of its stability. Methyl- cobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are forms used in the body’s enzymatic reactions; these are available in sup- plement forms that appear to be no more effective than cyanocobalamin and may require higher doses than the RDA. Hydroxocobalamin is the form used effectively for injections. 8,42 THERAPEUTIC VEGETARIAN DIETS AND CHRONIC DISEASE Provided that adequate nutrition edu- cation is given, a therapeutic vege- tarian diet performs as well as omnivorous diets in terms of adher- ence. 43As with implementation of any diet, employing a variety of counseling strategies, including motivational interviewing, frequent sessions, cook- ing demonstrations, and incentives, can improve nutrition-related out- comes when using a vegetarian diet therapeutically. Overweight and Obesity With more than two-thirds the Amer- ican population overweight or obese and numbers increasing, 44 RDNs should be aware of the evidence to support the use of vegetarian and vegan diets for achieving and main- taining a healthy weight. A healthy body weight is associated with improved cardiovascular function 45 and insulin sensitivity, 46 as well as helping to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. 45 Plant-based dietary patterns are also associated with lower body mass index (BMI; calculated as kg/m 2). In the Adventist Health Study-2, mean BMIwas highest (28.8) in meat eaters and lowest in those who avoided all animal products (23.6). 47 Similarly, in the EPIC-Oxford Study, researchers found the highest mean BMI among meat eaters (24.4) and the lowest among vegans (22.5). 48 In the Swedish Mammography Cohort study, re- searchers found that the prevalence of overweight or obesity was 40% among omnivores and 25% among vegetarians. 49 Research indicates that therapeutic use of a vegetarian diet is effective for treating overweight and may perform better than alternative omnivorous di- ets for the same purpose. Two meta- analyses of intervention trials showed that adoption of vegetarian diets was associated with greater weight loss compared with control diet groups. 50,51 A vegan diet with structured group support and behavioral therapy compared with the National Choles- terol Education Program diet, was associated with significantly greater weight loss after 1 and 2 years. 52 CVD, Including Hyperlipidemia, Ischemic Heart Disease, and Hypertension Vegetarian diets are associated with a reduction in the risk of CVD. 15,53 Vegetarian diets improve several modifiable heart disease risk factors, including abdominal obesity, 54 blood pressure, 55 serum lipid profile, 56 and blood glucose. 42,57 They also decrease markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, reduce oxidative stress, and protect from atherosclerotic plaque formation. 58 Consequently, vegetarians have reduced risk of developing and dying from ischemic heart disease. 15,53,59 Vegan diets seem to be most bene- ficial in improving heart disease risk factors. 55,57 The EPIC-Oxford study 60 revealed that those who consumed a vegan diet ate the mostfiber, the least total fat and saturated fat, and had the healthiest body weights and choles- terol levels compared with omnivores and other vegetarians. A meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that those participants assigned to a vegetarian diet experienced a substantial reduction in total, low- density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which corre- sponded with an approximately 10%reduced risk of heart disease. 56 The vegetarian diet was especially benefi- cial for healthy weight and overweight individuals, but less effective for obese individuals, underscoring the impor- tance of early dietary intervention for long-term risk reduction. 56 In the Adventist Health Study-2 of 73,308 Seventh-day Adventists, re- searchers found that vegetarians had a 13% and 19% decreased risk for developing CVD and ischemic heart disease, respectively, compared with nonvegetarians. 15 A previous analysis from the EPIC study found that vege- tarian groups had a 32% lower risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease. 53 Vegetarians enjoy a lower risk of heart disease by regularly consuming a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Low-fat vegan and vegetarian diets, combined with other lifestyle factors, including not smoking and weight reduction, have been shown to reverse athero- sclerosis. 61 Risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as total and low- density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, body weight, and body fat, improve within a short time on a vegetarian diet, even without the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs. 61 Compared with nonvegetarians, vegetarians have a lower prevalence of hypertension. Results of the EPIC- Oxford study showed vegans have the lowest systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and the lowest rate of hypertension of all diet groups (vegans, vegetarians,fish eaters, and meat eaters). 62 Data from the Adventist Health Study-2 confirmed that vegans have the lowest blood pressure levels and the least hypertension of all vege- tarians, and significantly less than the meat eaters. 55 A meta-analysis comparing blood pressure from more than 21,000 people around the world found that those who follow a vege- tarian diet have systolic blood pressure about 7 mm Hg lower and diastolic blood pressure 5 mm Hg lower than study participants who consume an omnivorous diet. 63 Diabetes Compared with meat eaters, lacto-ovo- vegetarians and vegans have lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The Adventist Health Study-2 reported that meat FROM THE ACADEMY December 2016 Volume 116 Number 12JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS1973 eaters had more than twice the preva- lence of diabetes compared with lacto- ovo-vegetarians and vegans, even after correcting for BMI. 47Among those who were free of diabetes, the Adventist Health Study found that the odds of developing diabetes were reduced by 77% for vegans and by 54% for lacto- ovo-vegetarians compared with non- vegetarians (adjusting for age). When BMI and other confounding factors were adjusted for, the association remained strong. Vegans were 62% less likely to develop diabetes, while lacto- ovo-vegetarians were 38% less likely. 64 Prevention. In the past 2 decades, prospective observational studies and clinical trials have provided significant evidence that diets rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts, and lower in refined grains, red or processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages, reduce the risk of diabetes and improve glycemic control and blood lipids in patients with diabetes. 65 Whole-grain intake has been consistently associated with a lower risk of diabetes, even after adjusting for BMI. 66 Legumes, which are low glycemic index foods, may provide benefit for diabetes by reducing postprandial glucose levels after consumption of a meal as well as after a subsequent meal, known as the “second-meal effect.” 67 A meta- analysis demonstrated that higher in- takes of fruit or vegetables, particularly green vegetables, were associated with a significant reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes. 68 In the Nurses’Health Study I and II, greater nut consumption, especially walnuts, was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. 69 Conversely, red and processed meats are strongly associated with increased fasting glucose and insulin concentrations and diabetes risk. 70 Potential etiologies for the association of meat and diabetes include saturated fatty acid, advanced glycation end products, nitrates/ nitrites, heme iron, trimethylamine N-oxide, branched amino acids, and endocrine disruptor chemicals. 70 Treatment. In a randomized clinical trial comparing a low-fat vegan diet to a diet based on the American Diabetes Association guidelines, greater im- provements in glycemic control, blood lipids, and body weight were seen inthe vegan group. 71 In a 24-week ran- domized controlled trial in patients with type 2 diabetes, those on an isocaloric vegetarian diet reported greater improvements of insulin sensitivity, reduction in visceral fat, and a reduction in inflammatory markers than those on a conventional diabetic diet. 72 According to a meta-analysis of six controlled clinical trials, vegetarian diets were associated with improved glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. 73 Vegetarian and vegan dietary patterns characterized by nutrient-dense, high-fiber plant foods lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and serve as effective therapeutic tools in the management of type 2 diabetes. Cancer Results from the Adventist Health Study-2 revealed that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower overall cancer risk, and especially a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Further- more, a vegan diet appeared to confer a greater protection against overall cancer incidence than any other dietary pattern. 74Recently, vegan diets were reported to confer about a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer. 75 A meta-analysis of seven studies re- ported vegetarians having an 18% lower overall cancer incidence than nonvegetarians. 59 Epidemiologic studies have consis- tently shown that a regular consump- tion of fruit, vegetables, legumes, or whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers. 76A vast array of phytochemicals, such as sul- foraphane, ferulic acid, genistein, indole-3-carbinol, curcumin, epi- gallocatechin-3-gallate, diallyldisulfide, resveratrol, lycopene, and quercetin found in vegetables, legumes, fruits, spices, and whole grains may provide protection against cancer. 77,78 These phytochemicals are known to interfere with a number of cellular processes involved in the progression of cancer. 79 Vegetarians typically consume higher levels offiber compared with other diets. The EPIC study involving 10 European countries reported a 25% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer for the highest intake of dietary fiber compared with the lowest. 80 On the other hand, in two large US cohorts, a positive association wasobserved between processed red meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. 81 Processed meat consumption was also seen to increase the risk of dying from cancer. 82 In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 26 epide- miological studies, the relative risk of colorectal adenomas was 1.27 per daily 100-g intake of red meat and 1.29 per daily 50-g intake of processed meat. 83 Osteoporosis Bone studies have reported that vege- tarians have either similar or slightly reduced bone mineral density levels compared with omnivores, with vegans typically having the lowest levels. 84 While the differences are relatively modest, they appear not to be of clinical significance, provided the nutrients of concern are adequately provided. Vegetarian diets are associated with several factors that promote bone health, including high intakes of vege- tables and fruits; an abundant supply of magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C; and a relatively low acid load. 36 Conversely, they can compro- mise bone health when low in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and protein. 36 EPIC-Oxford reported a 30% increase in fracture risk of vegans as a group, but no increase in fracture risk in lacto- ovo-vegetarians compared to non- vegetarians. However, when only vegans with calcium intakes>525 mg/ day were included in the analysis, dif- ferences in fracture risk disappeared. 84 The Adventist Health Study-2 reported that more frequent intakes of legumes and meat analogs reduced risk of hip fracture, with a greater protective ef- fect than that of meat. 85 Protein has a neutral or slightly positive impact on bone health. 36 Inadequate intakes of vitamins D and B-12 have been linked to low bone mineral density, increased fracture risk, and osteoporosis. 36 To achieve and maintain excellent bone health, vegetarians and vegans are well advised to meet the RDA for all nutrients, particularly calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and protein, and to consume generous servings of vegeta- bles and fruits. 36 VEGETARIAN DIETS THROUGHOUT THE LIFE CYCLE Well-planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are FROM THE ACADEMY 1974JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICSDecember 2016 Volume 116 Number 12 appropriate, and they satisfy the nutrient needs and promote normal growth at all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Pregnant and Lactating Women Limited research indicates that where food access is adequate, vegetarian pregnancy outcomes, such as birth weight and pregnancy duration, are similar to those in nonvegetarian pregnancy. 7,86,87 Use of a vegetarian diet in thefirst trimester resulted in lower risk of excessive gestational weight gain in one study. 88 Maternal diets high in plant foods may reduce the risk of complications of pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. 88,89 The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’position and practice papers on“Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome” 90,91 pro- vide appropriate guidance for pregnant vegetarians. Special consideration is required for iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and EPA/DHA. 87,89 Depending on dietary choices, preg- nant vegetarians may have higher iron intakes than nonvegetarians and are more likely to use iron supplements. 92 Because of the potential for inade- quate intakes and the adverse effects of iron deficiency, a low-dose (30 mg) iron supplement is recommended in pregnancy. 93 The recommended amount of iron could be provided via a prenatal supplement, a separate iron supplement, or a combination of these. There is insufficient evidence that zinc intake and status in vegetarian preg- nancies differ from nonvegetarian pregnancies. 87,89 Due to the increased zinc requirements of pregnancy and the lower bioavailability in diets based on high-phytate grains and legumes, increasing zinc intake and using food preparation techniques that improve bioavailability are recommended. 7,8,29 Pregnant and lactating vegetarians need regular and adequate dietary and/ or supplemental sources of vitamin B-12. 7,8,89,91 Infants of vegetarian women have lower plasma DHA concentrations and breast milk of vegetarians is lower in DHA. 7, 8 These n-3 fatty acids can be synthesized to some extent from a-linolenic acid, but conversion rates are low (though somewhat enhancedin pregnancy). 8,89 Pregnant and lactating vegetarians may benefit from direct sources of EPA and DHA derived from microalgae. 8,91 Infants, Children, and Adolescents Exclusive breastfeeding is recom- mended for thefirst 6 months. 94 If breastfeeding is not possible, commer- cial infant formula should be used as the primary beverage for thefirst year. Complementary foods should be rich in energy, protein, iron, and zinc, and may include hummus, tofu, well-cooked legumes, and mashed avocado. 8Full fat, fortified soy milk, or dairy milk can be started as early as 1 year of age for toddlers who are growing normally and eating a variety of foods. 95 Vege- tarian children and teens are at lower risk than their nonvegetarian peers for overweight and obesity. Children and adolescents with BMI values in the normal range are more likely to also be within the normal range as adults, resulting in significant disease risk reduction. 96 Other benefits of a vege- tarian diet in childhood and adoles- cence include greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets and salty snacks, and lower intakes of total and saturated fat. 97 Consuming balanced vegetarian diets early in life can establish healthful lifelong habits. 8 The peak age of onset for the most common eating disorders is in the adolescent years. Eating disorders have a complex etiology and prior use of a vegetarian or vegan diet does not appear to increase the risk of an eating disorder, though some with pre- existing disordered eating may choose these diets to aid in their limitation of food intake. 7, 8 Nutrients that may require attention in the planning of nutritionally adequate diets for young vegetarians include iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and for some, calcium and vitamin D. Mean protein intakes of vegetarian children generally meet or exceed recommen- dations. 7Protein needs of vegan chil- dren may be slightly higher than those of nonvegan children because of dif- ferences in protein digestibility and amino acid composition. 7Recommen- dations of 30% to 35% more protein for 1- to 2-year-old vegans, 20% to 30% more for 2 to 6 year olds, and 15% to 20% more for children older than 6years have been suggested. 7,95 While dietary factors may limit absorption of iron and zinc, deficiencies of these minerals are uncommon in vegetarian children in industrialized countries. 98 Iron and zinc status of children on very restricted plant-based diets should be monitored. Supplemental iron and zinc may be needed in such cases. 98 Vitamin B-12 intake of vegan infants and children should be assessed and fortified foods and/or supplements used as needed to insure adequacy. 7 Older Adults Nutrient intakes of older vegetarians appear to be similar to or better than those of older nonvegetarians, 7 although past research suggested lower zinc intakes and a greater inci- dence of poor iron status among veg- etarians. 86,99 Caloric needs generally decrease with age, while requirements for some nutrients increase; thus, it is important that all older people choose nutrient-dense diets. Some evidence suggests that protein is used less effi- ciently with aging, which may translate to higher protein requirements. 10 0 Thus, it is important for older vegetar- ians and vegans to include protein-rich foods such as legumes and soy foods in their diets. Meat analogs may be help- ful as protein sources. Older people synthesize vitamin D less efficiently, and are likely to require supplements, especially if sun exposure is limited. 35 The higher calcium recommendations for older adults may be met more easily when fortified foods, such as plant milks, are included. The require- ment for vitamin B-6 increases with aging, and may be higher than current RDAs for older people. Atrophic gastritis is common among people over the age of 50 years and can result in decreased absorption of vitamin B-12 from animal products. Therefore, many older people, regardless of diet, require vitamin B-12 supplements. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES Plant-based diets are more environ- mentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with considerably less environmental damage. 101-105 The current worldwide consumption of diets high in meat and FROM THE ACADEMY December 2016 Volume 116 Number 12JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS1975 dairy products is considered by some as unsustainable. 101,10 3 ,10 5 The systematic review conducted by the Scientific Committee of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides evidence that diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods (like a vegetarian diet) are associ- ated with lower environmental dam- age. 10 6 Many scientists are calling for a substantial reduction of livestock prod- ucts in the diet of humans as a major way to reverse climate change. 10 5 Compared with omnivorous diets, vegetarian diets utilize less water and fossil fuel resources and use lower amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. 10 7 Substituting beans for beef in the diet would significantly reduce the environmental footprint worldwide. To produce 1 kg protein from kidney beans requires 18 times less land, 10 times less water, 9 times less fuel, 12 times less fertilizer, and 10 times less pesticide in comparison to producing 1 kg protein from beef. 10 8 In addition, beef production generates considerably more manure waste than from any other animal food production. 10 8 According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, about 70% of all water pollution in rivers and lakes inthe United States is a result of pollution from animal farms. 10 9 Animal agricul- ture is associated with land degrada- tion, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, and global warming. 10 4 ,110 Meat pro- duction makes a significant contribu- tion to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and anthropogenic methane and nitrous oxide production. 101,103,111 Using calculations based on 210 com- mon foods, greenhouse gas emissions from consuming a vegetarian diet were found to be 29% lower than from the use of a nonvegetarian diet, 11 2 while a vegan diet can have>50% lower greenhouse emissions compared to a nonvegetarian diet. 10 2 While new technologies for animal farming are available, a recent study found that greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of animal products were reduced only 9% due to a more efficient livestock production. 113 The authors concluded that cuts in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet the global temperature target“imply a severe constraint on the long-term global consumption of animal food.” 113 Others have suggested that reducing animalproduction has a greater potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than “technological mitigation or increased productivity measures.” 10 5 The use of antibiotics in farm animals as growth promoters and for the pre- vention and treatment of animal dis- eases has generated antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This antibiotic resistance can be transmitted to humans through an- imal food consumption and is now a major public health problem, causing illnesses that are difficult to treat, and resulting in increased morbidity, mor- tality, and health care costs. 105,114 ROLES, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND RESOURCES FOR THE RDN AND NDTR Vegan and vegetarian diets can provide significant health benefits compared with nonvegetarian diets. Ensuring energy balance; nutritional adequacy; and a focus on a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, can maximize these benefits. Nutrition and dietetics practitioners can play key roles in educating vege- tarians about sources of specific www.vndpg.org The Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (VNDPG) member benefits include professional information on vegetarian nutrition, RDN resources, and quarterly newsletters. www.vegetariannutrition.net VNDPG’s consumer website provides a blog with evidence-based vegetarian nutrition plus RDN resources for consumers. www.vrg.org The Vegetarian Resource Group provides nutrition information, recipes, meal plans, and recommended readings for vegetarian nutrition. www.PCRM.org The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine promotes preventive medicine through innovative programs and offers free patient educational materials. www.veganhealth.org This website offers evidence-based recommendations covering the nutritional features of plant-based diets. www.nutritionfacts.org This website provides brief, referenced video clips and articles on numerous aspects of vegetarian nutrition. www.vegweb.com VegWeb offers vegetarian recipes, community, and a blog. www.vegetarian-nutrition.info Vegetarian Nutrition Info provides topical articles, resources, and news. Figure 2.Professional and consumer websites for vegetarian nutrition, food, and related topics. Many of these sites provide high- quality educational materials upon which the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN); nutrition and dietetics technician, registered; and other health care practitioners can rely. These sites supply patient or client education regarding vegetarian nutrition throughout the life cycle, nutrients of interest, meal plans, and plant-based substitutions for nonvegetarian ingredients. FROM THE ACADEMY 1976JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICSDecember 2016 Volume 116 Number 12 nutrients and foods useful in the management of specific chronic dis- eases. In order to effectively counsel on the adoption and implementation of a vegetarian or vegan diet, RDNs and NDTRs must have adequate knowledge and access to educational materials to facilitate healthful recommendations. The US Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate allows for lacto-ovo- vegetarian and vegan menus, listing beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and soy products as plant-based choices in the protein food group, as well as eggs for ovo-vegetarians. 115 Fortified soy milk is listed as an alternative for cow’s milk and calcium-fortified foods (jui- ces, cereals, breads, rice milk, and almond milk), as well as kale, are sug- gested as calcium choices. 116,117 Vegan food guides, all modeled on the US Department of Agriculture’s Choose- MyPlate, are available online, and include specifications regarding sour- ces of calcium, vitamin B-12, iodine, and n-3 fatty acids (www.vrg.org/ nutshell/MyVeganPlate.pdf;www. becomingvegan.ca/food-guide;www. theveganrd.com/food-guide-for-vegans). Evidence-based RDN consumer and professional resources are available through the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group’s website (www.vegetariannutrition.net). These resources are regularly updated and provide information on critical nutri- ents and lifecycle issues in plant-based diets. Figure 2lists useful websites that promote and encourage appropriate evidence-based recommendations and food choices for both the RDN and clientele. Further recommendations can be found at the Evidence Analysis Library, a free benefit to all Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members. In addition, all RDNs have ethical obliga- tions to respect vegetarian dietary patterns as they would any other di- etary pattern. CONCLUSIONS Interest in and appreciation for plant- based diets continue to grow in the United States and other parts of the world as governmental agencies and various health and nutrition orga- nizations promote the regular use of plant foods. Abundant choices in the marketplace facilitate following a plant-based diet. Well-designedvegetarian diets provide adequate nutrient intakes for all stages of the lifecycle and can also be useful in the therapeutic management of some chronic diseases. Overall nutrition, as assessed by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, is typically better on vegetarian and vegan diets compared with omnivorous diets. While some vegetarian diets may be low in certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin B-12, this can be remedied by appro- priate planning. Compared to nonveg- etarian diets, vegetarian diets can provide protection against many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet could make more con- servative use of natural resources and cause less environmental degradation. Greater educational resources are available today, and RDNs and NDTRs have more current information on vegetarian diets to better assist the general public and vegetarian clients in making well-informed decisions about their nutritional health. References1. Stahler C. How often do Americans eat vegetarian meals? And how many adults in the US are vegetarian? The Vegetarian Resource Group website.http://www. vrg.org/nutshell/Polls/2016_adults_veg. htm. Accessed June 23, 2016. 2.Hoek AC, Luning PA, Weijzen P, Engels W, Kok FJ, de Graaf C. Replace- ment of meat by meat substitutes. A survey on person- and product-related factors in consumer acceptance.Appe- tite. 2011;56(3):662-673. 3. American Institute for Cancer Research. Recommendations for cancer preven- tion.http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your- cancer-risk/recommendations-for-can cer-prevention/recommendations_04_ plant_based.html?gclid¼CJ6__O7dpboCF cid4AodhkMAIA. Accessed June 23, 2016. 4. 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Animal. 2013;7(2):330-340. 114.Economou V, Gousia P. Agriculture and food animals as a source of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.Infect Drug Resist. 2015;8:49-61.115. US Department of Agriculture. All about the protein foods group.http://www. choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods. Upda- ted July 29, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016. 116. US Department of Agriculture. All about the dairy group.http://www.choose myplate.gov/dairy. Updated July 29, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016. 117. US Department of Agriculture. Non- dairy sources of calcium.http://www. choosemyplate.gov/dairy-calcium-sources. Updated January 12, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016. This Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position was adopted by the House of Delegates Leadership Team on October 18, 1987 and reaffirmed on September 12, 1992; September 6, 1996; June 22, 2000; June 11, 2006; and March 19, 2012. This position is in effect until December 31, 2021. Position papers should not be used to indicate endorsement of products or services. All requests to use portions of the position or republish in its entirety must be directed to the Academy [email protected] Authors:Vesanto Melina, MS, RD (Consultant, Vancouver, Canada); Winston Craig, PhD, MPH, RD (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI); Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC). STATEMENT OF POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. FUNDING/SUPPORT There is no funding to disclose. Reviewers:Hunger and Environmental Nutrition dietetic practice group (Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RDN, LDN, Community College of Phila- delphia, Philadelphia, PA); Catherine Conway, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE (YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities, New York, New York); Sharon Denny, MS, RD (Academy Knowledge Center, Chicago, IL); Sarah Picklo Halabu, RDN, LDN, CDE (Academy Publications and Resources, Chicago, IL); D. Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RD, CSSD (University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY); Mark E. Rifkin, MS, RD (Academy Policy Initiatives & Advocacy, Washington, DC); Tamara Schryver, PhD, MS, RD (The Schwan Food Company, Minneapolis, MN); Alison Steiber, PhD, RD (Academy Research, International and Scientific Affairs, Chicago, IL); Vegetarian Nutrition dietetic practice group (John Westerdahl, PhD, MPH, RD, CNS, FAND, Bragg Health Foundation, Santa Barbara, CA). Academy Positions Committee Workgroup:Mary Ellen E. Posthauer, RDN, CD, LD, FAND (chair) (MEP Healthcare Dietary Services, Inc, Evansville, IN); Ainsley Malone, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, FAND, FASPEN (American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, New Albany, OH); Joan Sabate, MD, DrPH (content advisor) (Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA). The authors thank the reviewers for their many constructive comments and suggestions. The reviewers were not asked to endorse this position or the supporting paper. FROM THE ACADEMY 1980JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICSDecember 2016 Volume 116 Number 12