It isn’t widely known, but a high proportion of human pregnancies end in miscarriage, also known as spontaneous abortion. The majority of these miscarriages occur very soon after pregnancy, often before the pregnancy is known, and for this reason, precise figures are difficult to obtain. Estimates for the rate of miscarriage vary widely, but many are in excess of 60%. These estimates are usually based on some very old studies, together with data obtained by observing in vitro fertilisations (IVF), which may not reflect what occurs in nature.
Let’s tentatively accept a 60% rate of miscarriage. What’s the main issue for the pro-life position? Many philosophers have pointed out that this means hundreds of millions of human beings are dying by miscarriage, and according to pro-lifers, these are all human beings with moral value equivalent to any adult. But these numbers are far in excess of any other cause of death. In fact about 56 million human beings die each year, while perhaps 200 million miscarriages occur. The question has been asked, why don’t pro-lifers care about this huge loss of human life? They are certainly concerned with preventing induced abortions, which account for far few human lives, about 56 million. But their lack of concern about the 200 million deaths from miscarriage seems to indicate they don’t really believe their own claims about the moral value of embryos and fetuses. In fact, their stance has been criticised as ‘morally monstrous’.
It’s an important question for pro-lifers to answer, and the PA and Daniel Rodger have just published a comprehensive reply in The New Bioethics entitled The Problem of Spontaneous Abortion: Is the Pro-Life Position Morally Monstrous?. I’ll summarise our response below. If you don’t have access to academic journals and would like a copy of this paper, please request it from here.
The underlying question is what moral obligation do pro-lifers have towards combating miscarriage, and how does this obligation compare to their obligation to oppose induced abortions. Certainly, on a pure numbers basis, there is a prima facie obligation to do something about miscarriage—it certainly seems to trump induced abortion in this regard. But we identify two important considerations that should influence our obligations: the preventability of death and the moral badness of death. If deaths are not preventable, this reduces our obligation towards these deaths, and if certain deaths are morally worse than others, we should prioritise them.
Preventability of miscarriage
It is too simplistic to directly compare deaths by miscarriage to deaths by, say, cancer, or even induced abortion. Miscarriage is not a cause of death, but rather refers to all natural deaths prior to birth, irrespective of cause. It has a variety of underlying causes, and these must be examined to determine which are the most prevalent. The most common cause of miscarriage turns out to be chromosomal abnormalities, accounting for perhaps 70% of all miscarriages. These abnormalities are mostly aneuploidies, an abnormal number of chromosomes in cells, and they are rarely compatible with life. Aneuplodies cannot be prevented—this would require gene-editing of embryos, which is not currently possible.
There are a variety of other lesser causes of miscarriage, such as uterine abnormalities, thrombophilias, immunological and immunogenetic causes, and acute maternal infections. Certain lifestyle factors have been implicated in increasing the risk of miscarriage, including smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and obesity, and finally increasing maternal age is also a factor.
Killing vs Letting Die
Some pro-lifers have claimed induced abortions are far morally worse than miscarriages, and that this justifies concentrating efforts on fighting induced abortion. The problem with this claim is that even if there is a moral distinction between deliberate killing (induced abortion) and letting someone die (miscarriage), it’s not clear that this matters. To explore this, let’s assume there is a moral difference—that it is far worse for someone to deliberately kill someone rather than letting them die, say by failing to rescue them. The issue for pro-lifers is that as far as they are concerned, it seems that induced abortions are also a case of letting die—they are not directly involved in killing themselves, and so they are bystanders with respect to induced abortions and miscarriages. Unless pro-lifers wish to make nebulous claims about induced abortions contributing to more evil in the world, it seems there is no good reason to prioritise opposing induced abortions over miscarriages on the grounds of moral evil.
Here Thomas Pogge sheds some light on the issue, stating that with regard to induced abortions ‘we are responsible for helping to bring these deaths about by participating in maintaining and enforcing a legal system that, by permitting abortions, foreseeably results in these extra deaths’ (Pogge 2010, p. 127). Citizens in the United States prior to 1860 were all responsible for laws permitting slavery, irrespective of whether they owned slaves themselves. Similarly, all citizens in a democracy permitting induced abortion bear some moral responsibility for these deaths. So if induced abortions are morally worse than miscarriages and all citizens bear some responsibility for them, this is a strong reason to oppose it.
In ethics, the killing vs letting die distinction is widely debated. Intuitively, most of us feel there is something worse about deliberate killing compared to allowing someone to die, but it is difficult to pin this down. Philosophers are very good at coming up with counter-examples to accounts of this difference. We take the approach of looking at a comparison that is as analogous as possible (on the pro-life view) to most induced abortions and miscarriages: the deliberate killing of a newborn baby who could be expected to live a normal life, and allowing a newborn with a fatal and incurable chromosomal disorder to die. It seems clear that letting the newborn die in this case may not be morally problematic at all, while killing a newborn baby is always gravely wrong. We conclude that similarly, it is far worse morally to deliberately kill a fetus than to fail to save it.
Even though the number of deaths are much higher for miscarriages than induced abortions, they both represent tens of millions of deaths of morally valuable human beings, according to the pro-life position. If we allow that our moral obligations with regard to these deaths are influenced by what can be done to prevent them, and that induced abortions are morally worse than miscarriages, then it seems reasonable for pro-lifers to concentrate on opposing induced abortions. If we consider prenatal deaths by preventable causes, induced abortion is by far the most preventable cause of death.
It is important, however, for pro-lifers not to ignore miscarriages. Although much medical research is dedicated towards the problem, the scale of deaths means the issue should be discussed widely in pro-life circles and consideration given to what might be done.
33 thoughts on “The problem of miscarriage for pro-lifers”
One thing to bear in mind here is that many miscarriages are caused because the woman’s womb or uterus has been scarred or damaged by previous use of IUDs, and/or due to the damage done by the violent act of surgical abortion(s). As well, there are some STDs that also harm the woman’s reproductive tract. Thus, many miscarriages are preventable in the sense that if women act more responsibly and morally to begin with, their wombs will be healthier and will preserve their natural and healthy functioning.
In my recent post about abortion and infanticide, I pointed out that abortion will not end until women reject it. Women are the demand in “abortion on demand”. Pro-lifers need to develop effective approaches to reducing the demand for abortions.
I haven’t read anything on the contribution of previous abortions to miscarriage rates, but if you have any references please post them – it certainly seems possible.
I think some pro-lifers probably don’t realise that the pill, one of the most common forms of contraception, can work by preventing implantation… aka technically a miscarriage. It’s primary method is suppressing ovulation but it does also prevent implantation, which I think probably a lot of people aren’t aware off as millions and millions of women take the pill.
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Do you have a reference for this? I understand that so-called “emergency contraception” is dubious (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/health/research/morning-after-pills-dont-block-implantation-science-suggests.html) but last time I looked at the pill (a while ago) I didn’t think it prevented implantation.
I’d like to start off by congratulating you on this blog, I just discovered it and am surprised by how well it is made.
I’m unaware of the specific criteria pro-lifers go by, but I believe that they are more focused on the voluntary decision to kill a child instead of the death of a child. It seems counter-intuitive, yet miscarriages happen by natural cause. I haven’t seen any woman smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, consume caffeine or adopt poor dietary habits in hopes of it killing their baby. These are usually feeble attempts to solve deeper, underlying problems in women’s lives. If pro-lifers truly do care for the life of the baby, miscarriages certainly enter the equation, but similarly to the fact that they do not “make choices for someone else’s body” (since it’s not their body, it’s a different body that just so happens to be inside them), they don’t want to control women’s personal habits. They might agree that the factors that contribute to miscarriages should be stopped as soon as possible, but it’s out of their control to do anything about it. One can’t coerce a woman to quit an addictive habit because it might possibly cause a miscarriage in the future, since the simple act of coercion can already be deemed as unethical, but telling a stranger what they should or shouldn’t do (especially if those actions don’t even guarantee the death of the baby) is equally wrong.
Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood your input on this issue, since I’d be more than glad to have a (hopefully) constructive dialogue with you!
Once again, you did an amazing job with this website.
Yes, pro-lifers are more focused on induced abortion – but the argument is that they should be equally concerned for fetuses no matter what the cause of death, whether it be induced abortion or spontaneous abortion.
Of course, if something like the Christian worldview is correct, then God could prevent miscarriages as well as the fetal abnormalities which often cause it, and his failure to do so is morally bad. But there are two other problems with the position described here. 1) One sure-fire way to prevent all miscarriages is simply to not engage in heterosexual (or PIV, “penis-in-vagina”) intercourse. If performing some action which results in the cessation of a human life is really as bad as the pro-life position suggests (and even if restricted to “viable” human life this would include 30% of all miscarriages according to your own numbers), then surely we should do this. True, the human race may then die out unless we can develop some safer IVF methods, but again, if you’re a Christian, you must believe that God could create a solution to this, and if He chooses not to, there must be a morally sufficient reason for his not doing so. If, OTOH, you think that our natural drive for sexual intimacy (and not just to procreate) is by itself a sufficient reason to justify PIV intercourse even with the risk of miscarriages, then you will knock down a major pro-life argument typically used to stress that we should never have intercourse unless we are prepared to have children (“if you didn’t want to go to Chicago, why did you get on the train?”) 2) If miscarriages due to chromosomal defects are not problematic, then presumably so are abortions in response to the same. Some pro-lifers might be ok with this depending upon the severity of the defect, but most would find this problematic; the issue must at least be addressed explicitly, but you avoid discuss the point. So there is trouble at every turn here for the pro-life position.
If killing is not morally equivalent to letting die (and I don’t think it is here), then prolifers have a moral obligation to concentrate on induced abortion in preference to miscarriages.
Two problems with your position here. 1) Surely letting die has /some/ wrongness, if it concerns a life equally valuable. Suppose you could prevent one person being struck by a trolley by diverting it, but this blocks a road and delays you from meeting up with your spouse that evening so you can’t have some intended intercourse. Surely you should divert this trolley, right? So it again follows that we should avoid PIV intercourse in order to avoid the “letting die” of many human lives via miscarriage. 2) The killing/letting die distinction doesn’t support your conclusion, even if the latter is worse. For (except for a Christian contemplating not having an abortion herself, which no one thinks is wrong) in both cases it’s a question of letting die (by letting miscarriages continue, or letting others abort). Or do you think it’s worse to let someone die from a killing than in some other scenario (more important to divert a trolley intentionally aimed by someone else at five bystanders than one running at them by accident?) Perhaps you could assert and try to defend such a position, but it’s an unusual one. If not, then again it appears that your concerns are somewhat arbitrary.
If you read the linked paper in the post, you’ll see it addresses these questions.
Your article link is behind a paywall, making it inaccessible to the general public. Fortunately there is a link to the full article at philpapers.org. Perusing this, it is clear that you do not adequately address my two objections above. 1) On the issue of “preventability,” you focus on the preventability of the various medical causes of miscarriage, e.g., chromosomal abnormalities. You ignores the fact that all such miscarriages are preventable at a far earlier stage and without hypothetical medical technology, by avoiding PIV intercourse (or, perhaps with slightly less pervasive intrusion into person’s affairs and greater feasibility, mass sterilization before puberty). 2) You do attempt to address the fact that preventing abortions performed by others is only a “letting die” by borrowing arguments from others (e.g., Pogge) that as citizens in a democracy, ‘we are responsible for helping to bring these deaths about by participating in maintaining and enforcing a legal system that, by permitting abortions, foreseeably results in these extra deaths’. But again, exactly the same thing is true of a legal system which, by allowing fertile persons to have PIV intercourse, foreseeably results in extra deaths by miscarriage. Enforced sterilization would doubtless be intrusive; but so is going door-to-door and checking to see that no one is holding slaves on their private property. It would hardly be infeasible to administer if the reasons for doing so were sufficiently strong, as they would seem to be given your other premises.
Of course, making laws either forbidding PIV intercourse illegal or requiring sterilization would be strongly opposed by most persons; but making abortion illegal is strongly opposed by a majority of persons (depending on how the question is phrased) and this (nor a hypothetical scenario in which, say, as many as 80% of citizens opposed this) is not likely to change your moral claims significant, although it might change your practical approach to the change you want. But of course the relevant change is self-enforceable by individuals; I would hardly take seriously a campaign against slavery led by persons who own slaves themselves whom they could free at any time but fail to do so. It is likewise difficult to take seriously a campaign against the ending of fetal lives led by persons who continue to recklessly engage in PIV intercourse which “foreseeably results in these extra deaths.”
In passing, I note that you never suggest that the lives of human fetuses with defects leading to miscarriage are thereby less valuable, but do briefly suggest that trying to prevent such miscarriage is futile because they would die soon anyway. A) This is far from clear, if whatever intervention prevents the miscarriage (presumably using advanced technology which we could develop if we set this as a priority) could also be applied to keeping such infants alive, possibly even in a healthier state but perhaps alive even if congenitally deformed. B) Even if true, this is irrelevant if there is, again, an easy way of preventing the conception of such congenitally deformed infants in the first place by changing the laws regarding heretofore private sexual conduct.
I don’t think the antinatalist solution is a solution at all. Obviously, eliminating the human race will solve all the problems that we face, but I find antinatalism difficult to take seriously.
Well, I don’t think your solution to reproductive issues is a solution at all, and find it difficult to take seriously.
But unlike you I have a more substantive response: I am (obviously) not offering either antinatalism or human extinction as a solution, but as a reductio to your position. If your premises lead to absurd conclusions, then rather than point out that the absurd is absurd, you should either try to show your premises don’t actually lead there, or re-examine your premises. That’s what I learned to do when studying philosophy, anyway; YMMV.
But it’s actually not so absurd as you suggest, at least given your premises. Since (like many pro-lifers) you are fond of comparisons with slavery, again consider the obvious parallel. If all the remaining women on earth (for plausibility, suppose there are only a few after some calamity) refuse for whatever reason to engage in sexual intercourse, the human race would die out if they were not forcibly raped (in effect, enslaved) by some remaining men. Do you think this would be justified? If so, please say so. I do not.
This is hardly to offer antinatalism or extinction as a “solution” to anything, just to say that slavery and rape are such great harms that, however tragic, if we must accept the former to avoid the latter, then we must do so. Likewise, if allowing the predictable death of conceived human embryos whose deaths we could prevent with a change in laws is really as bad as you say it is, as bad or worse than slavery, then unless you think enslavement (and worse) is permissible to keep the human race alive, then you must accept this lamentable result. (Alternatively, we could prioritize massive investment in improved IVF and/or embryonic genetic manipulation techniques, hopefully to procreate within a generation w/o embryonic loss. But again I don’t see pro-life people demanding this, let alone protesting in front of IVF clinics, or even making the more modest demand that women stop having intercourse in their later years before menopause. This doesn’t make sense…unless their real reasons for opposing abortion are other than the ones you say they are & ought to be.)
If killing is substantially worse than letting die (which prolifers believe), and most miscarriages are not preventable, that justifies the prolife position – induced abortion is the most significant cause of death, and it is substantially worse than miscarriage. Proposing antinatalism as a solution isn’t a reductio – it’s about as useful as saying people obviously don’t care about child mortality, because if they did they would be proposing antinatalism.
You are ignoring key points in my argument and repeating points I have already addressed; e.g., that Pogge’s argument, as you quote and use it, makes no distinction and offers no ground of a distinction between our responsibility between deaths permitted and caused, but makes us responsible for them regardless of what a third party does *if* we have the power to change laws to prevent them. I will not repeat the other details; if you want to understand why your arguments are not convincing, you’re simply going to have to pay more attention to what your opponents, like I, are saying.
On reflection, I can put this point slightly more clearly, and perhaps need to since you are glossing over an important distinction in your article and your summaries here, and still doing so in the way you are evading my point in this latest exchange.
Pogge thinks that we are responsible for, e.g., global poverty insofar as we support institutions and laws which permit this as an outcome, when we could change these and create better outcomes. Not only is this exactly what he says (and what you quote him as saying), but it would be absurd to think that he believes that our responsibility for it lay in laws supporting intentional harm rather than those allowing harm. After all, no one wakes up and goes to work saying “let’s see how I can screw the poor today.” The poor are harmed (according to Pogge; and perhaps plausibly so) as a side-effect of local and global institutions which enrich their supporters; their goal is not to make others poor, but themselves rich. It is their permitting this (perhaps predictable) side-effect which is wrong, not their actively intending thereof (which they do not generally do).
In other words, it is not that “harming the poor” is already a very bad act of doing rather than a somewhat less bad act of allowing, which in turn remote persons become responsible for through their choice of laws which permit this doing. Rather, we are strongly responsible for it because there are events which, through our choice of laws which predictably result therein, become very bad doings on our part (or as Pogge more precisely puts it, our support of the relevant laws make us morally responsible “participants” in these outcomes). This, then, fails to support your distinction between miscarriage and abortion; both fall squarely under the category of things which we are strongly responsible “participants” in.
But now I really don’t think I can explain this any better. If you still try to evade this point and insist, without explaining your position better, than Pogge is on your side here, then I can’t help you any further. I am sorry to learn that the reviewers and editors at your journal did not catch this misuse of Pogge’s position and give you an opportunity to correct or withdraw it before, as David Velleman once said at a talk on shame in what he immediately termed an admirable Freudian slip, “exposing yourself in publish” with such a plain error.
I haven’t misused Pogge, which is no doubt why the reviewers did not raise anything here. According to Pogge, we are all morally responsible participants in abortion laws, and therefore abortion can be regarded as killing and not letting die. Yes, Pogge’s point also applies to miscarriage (and indeed anything that harms us), but a major part of the paper addresses this by pointing out that the primary cause of miscarriages is currently not preventable. Antinatalism doesn’t prevent miscarriages any more than antinatalism prevents deaths from incurable diseases.
You see, your basic problem here is that you’re not grasping how extremely generally applicable Pogge’s principle is; a democratic policy could write laws requiring, promoting, or forbidding, a very great many things. Not everything, to be sure; and arguably its members are not responsible for things they could do whose good or bad effects they are ignorant of; e.g., Britons regarding a hypothetical law limiting CO2 emissions in 1800. But today we know a lot more about causal relationships and have greater power to affect them. Just because Pogge only applies his principle to two issues–abortion and poverty relief–doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to a great many other things besides that; remember, he’s doing this for strategic reasons, to get you all on board with poverty relief while gingerly handling your weird views on embryonic value with kid gloves. You seem to be using it as a portmanteau or gerrymandered principle, applying it precisely where you want to and not applying it where you choose not to. But that is not consistent, and so your argument is invalid. Just like all other major pro-life arguments, it equivocates and rationalizes to reach conclusions you are already committed to for other reasons. Until you recognize that this is the general pattern of pro-life arguments, and that most of your opponents are onto this strategy and do not find new versions of it compelling, you will have little success in changing any minds.
“as useful as saying people obviously don’t care about child mortality, because if they did they would be proposing antinatalism”
A false analogy, obviously; child mortality can be ameliorated in a host of ways after birth which are not accessible options for fetuses without far more advanced technology than we have at present (though again, which should be a priority if key premises of your position were true, and which you indeed concede should be the object of some our attention). If the *only* effective way to reduce child mortality was to avoid intercourse, then we would indeed have a terrible moral dilemma on our hands, and should certainly at least reduce intercourse & concomitant population growth until we found a better solution; but it isn’t, so we don’t, and needn’t.
“If the *only* effective way to reduce child mortality was to avoid intercourse, then we would indeed have a terrible moral dilemma on our hands, and should certainly at least reduce intercourse & concomitant population growth until we found a better solution; but it isn’t, so we don’t, and needn’t.”
This (inadvertently on your part) reinforces my point. The goal is to reduce the very large number of deaths of embryos and fetuses. One way is to oppose induced abortion and lobby for more restrictive laws. Another way is to reduce miscarriages. However, miscarriages can’t easily be reduced, so the priority should be reducing induced abortions, which is more effective. Avoiding intercourse *isn’t* the only effective way to reduce deaths of embryos and fetuses. It’s probably the most *ineffective* way.
“According to Pogge, we are all morally responsible participants in abortion laws, and therefore abortion can be regarded as killing and not letting die.”
This completely misconstrues his argument if you are suggesting that he believes or concludes that “killing” in this sense is wrong or a harm; he is very clear on 129, 134, and elsewhere that he’s only accepting certain anti-abortion views “for the sake of the argument” to try to get y’all to see that even if you accept them, you should put a greater priority on alleviating global poverty. He’s correct, of course, that we are “morally responsible participants” in a host of things, from abortion to allowing miscarriage-causing PIV intercourse to eating broccoli, when these are not forbidden by laws which we could but haven’t yet enacted. It hardly follows that any of those things are wrong. Perhaps in your sentence here “killing” does not imply wrongness. But if so, then nothing you’ve said here denies anything I’ve said, either, making it irrelevant to my reductio.
Or, to put it another way, nothing Pogge says in any way supports your conclusion that abortion is a klling/doing in the sense that allowing miscarriages (also via democratic laws) is not equally so. Which, remember, is the real point at issue here.
“Antinatalism doesn’t prevent miscarriages any more than antinatalism prevents deaths from incurable diseases.”
Sure it does, in both cases, and obviously so. For that matter, chopping off your head *will* prevent your having a cold tomorrow. The only question is whether the cure is worse than the disease. For the cold, obviously yes; for antinatalism to prevent incurable diseases for someone who would otherwise live a good life of several decades, I would usually say yes, and I presume so would you; Benatar disagrees, as we know. In the case of miscarriage, I would say yes, and you also claim this, but this doesn’t follow from your very strange value premises about the extraordinary value of embryonic life. There are various strategies you might try to argue against this, like arguing that PIV intercourse is a great moral good, worth the harm of miscarriage, because e.g. it is natural, or made blessed by God or the Pope, etc. But denying that avoidance of PIV intercourse is a means to the end in question is simply a silly denial of plain biological facts.
You’ve misunderstood. It’s irrelevant whether Pogge thinks induced abortion is morally wrong. The point is that on Pogge’s reasoning, prolifers have moral responsibility for both abortions and miscarriages. But *prolifers* believe abortion is morally wrong, and that gives us greater reason to try to prevent them – because we have moral responsibility for a grave wrong. Because miscarriages are letting die, and letting die is not the moral wrong that killing is, then the correct priority for prolifers is induced abortions.
You are completely ignoring my point, once again, and falsely claimed that I’ve misunderstood yours. Your conclusion is justified only if, unlike abortion, “miscarriages are letting die.” Which is precisely what is not true given your views on fetal life and Pogge’s principle about responsibility via laws.
I’m not interested in seeing you dodge this point again, so don’t bother. We’re done here, apparently.
Please, try to be more charitable in your interactions here.
Pogge points out we are participants in both abortion laws, and political and economic institutions that affect the poor. Therefore, as far as prolifers are concerned, induced abortion is killing, and so is allowing people to die of hunger. This is not the case for miscarriage – we are *not* participants in a political or economic system that is causing miscarriages. Therefore, as far as we are all concerned, miscarriages are letting die. p126-129.
Of course, Pogge does not discuss miscarriage on pp126-129 or elsewhere in his book; while the “participation” he characterized here *is* true of miscarriages for reasons I gave earlier and which your only attempt to counter was a blatant denial of well-known biological relationships.
It is difficult to be charitable when you keep ignoring my argument. If you cannot show enough respect for your opponents to try to address what they are saying, responding only with irrelevant points or the blunter “I don’t find this convincing” without explanation, then you cannot expect them not to call you on this fact.
I don’t mind people pointing out when I’m wrong. I just want them to interact charitably.
The participation Pogge speaks of is in political and economic institutions that cause poverty (or that create permissive abortion laws). That just isn’t the case for miscarriage – our political and economic institutions do *not* contribute to miscarriages.
You say the same thing yourself earlier (emphasis mine): “exactly the same thing is true of a legal system which, by **allowing** fertile persons to have PIV intercourse, foreseeably results in extra deaths by miscarriage”
Our legal system doesn’t create the conditions for miscarriages or cause them to happen – it just doesn’t do anything to prevent them occurring. Perhaps it could, but this a case of letting die, not killing.
But the same thing is true of abortions, obviously: the state simply allows them, it doesn’t facilitate them.
Well, Pogge doesn’t think so. In fact, he’s very clear on this. He says “what makes abortion deaths especially outrageous from a moral point of view is that they are officially and explicitly permitted by the law …in assessing the justice of an institutional scheme, we assign more weight to harms it officially authorizes than to harms it merely foreseeably produces”.
No this is not so clear, although I’ll grant that this is a more subtle mistake given Pogge’s language and approach here. Nevertheless, it seems more clear that Pogge is here describing “an objection [which] can be renewed” on the part of pro-lifers. On the next page he adds that it “convincingly” shows that it would be worse to officially authorize the deaths of human beings in order to save an even greater number of [equivalent] human beings. But notice he never says that he agrees that embryos really are “human beings” in the same sense as adults who die of malnutrition and poverty (he might believe that, I have no idea–but he doesn’t say or even imply it here). [And please, please don’t bring in the tired old equivocation between biological and biographical (morally significant) human lives, as there is no evidence that Pogge agrees with the persistent pro-life confusion between the two.] Nor (more to present purposes) does he say that this shows that pro-lifers are correct in claiming that the state actually does “officially authorize” abortion (let alone that it thereby does, or would, officially authorize the “deaths of human beings”) in a way that it doesn’t also authorize human deaths by poverty; he’s only saying that /even if all this is true/, you “pro-lifers” should make reducing global poverty a priority in the name of your professed values. All you’ve quoted here and all the context I see around it looks consistent with him granting this claim about official authorization of abortion only for sake of this last argument, as (again) he says he may be doing on 129.
In any case, and more to the point, if he really believes that the state does this, well then he’s just wrong, and obviously so; *nothing* the governments or courts do significantly encourages or authorizes abortions, they just authorize the pursuit of other values (bodily autonomy, medical privacy, etc.) which have abortion as one of their consequences. Look, if you think this is what Pogge is saying, and more importantly what you think he is saying is true, tell me something that Pogge clearly doesn’t say, namely: HOW does the state “officially authorize” abortion, in any way which is other than a simple permission to do it?
It looks to me like you’re confused about what Pogge is saying because he’s going way, way, WAY out of his way to be charitable towards your position and not hurt your feelings and lose you from his audience by directly contradicting what you claim to believe. And that his doing so was not a good idea overall if you’re so willing to stretch his words to eke out additional support for your implausible claims and bracket the issue whose importance he was trying to impress upon you.
It is clear to me that Pogge is saying the state does authorise abortions, and I think any reasonable person would agree he is correct. Probably a good time to close this discussion.
For a more general look at these kind of arguments, this came out yesterday:
“I think any reasonable person would agree he is correct”
I agree that you think that, but since you have failed at every opportunity to provide any reasons supporting this and will presumably continue to do so, I also agree that it is a good time to close this discussion. I will only add that if your strategy involves failing to give evidence for key premises of your arguments, you should probably never have opened any such discussion, here or elsewhere. Nor should you call your apologetics “philosophical,” for this involves giving reasons for your positions; check Socrates if you are unclear about this, I give no link but you can probably find his works in your local library.
More of that charity 🙂 I think I’ll take Pogge’s quite carefully reasoned opinion over yours.
And I know this in part because many years ago I was on your side of the fence, but then got schooled in the many inconsistencies in the position, and regretted the harm I did in promulgating such equivocal arguments. I hope that you too one day see through your present errors and come into the light of true respect for humanity.