Sunday, May 01, 2011

From abortion to antinatalism

It’s striking to note that both abortionists and antinatalists deploy the same core argument. Therefore, everyone who supports abortion should become an antinatalist.

Consensual gestation

Prochoice feminist exponents like Harrison and Petchesky claim that the value of fetal life is contingent upon a woman’s free consent and subjective acceptance….If a woman does not consent to invest her pregnancy with meaning or value, then the merely biological process can be freely terminated. Prior to her own free choice and conscious investment, a woman cannot be described as a “mother”…
Moreover, in cases of voluntary pregnancy, a woman can withdraw consent if fetal genetic defects or some other problem emerges at any time before birth.

McDonagh reframes the abortion debate by locating the missing piece of the puzzle…as McDonagh’s book explains, abortion rights flow inevitably from women's more established right to consent to what another agent does to their body. Specifically, women have a right to resist an unwanted intrusion by a fetus as well as to receive help from the state to stop such an intrusion.
Moving abortion rights from choice to consent has broad legal and cultural ramifications tapping into the very cornerstone of the American political system: consent. McDonagh unravels the consequences of extending to pregnant women the same guarantees of bodily integrity and liberty possessed by others in our society. Specifically, she shows why a woman who does not consent to be made pregnant by a fetus, not only has a right to terminate pregnancy, but why the state violates constitutional due process and equal protection guarantees when it fails to provide her with the same protections against nonconsensual intrusions by a fetus as it provides against nonconsensual intrusions by other parties.

Consensual existence

Consent to be Born is Impossible. Suffering, individual death, species extinction, profound disagreement with "the rules of the game", and even human nature itself: All these hardships might be acceptable for all were we, in our pre-conceived state, able to make a fully informed and rational choice about whether to be born, plus have the power to exercise our free choice about the matter. However, this is impossible even in theory; which brings us to the next core reason to not have children: Consent versus Consequences. In this case, it's the lack of consent weighed against substantively plausible consequences.  Given that consent is a central part of civil liberties and human rights, I find it irresponsible to handwave away this core reason.
If it were possible to ask this preexistent spirit whether he or she would like to be born, that “pre-person” might well refuse on the grounds that they don’t want to put up with this life’s inevitable bad points, even its most minor discomforts.  Even if they don't mind the "toughness" of our kind of life, they may still find the rules of the game of our kind of life too objectionable to want to participate in this game. They may also be disgusted with the way humans, even fairly decent ones, treat each other at least some of the time This could well cause them to loathe membership in such a species, especially if they realize they themselves are bound to act that way sooner or later despite listening to “the better angels of their nature”.  They may also find existence pointless because we all go back into nonexistence anyway.  If non-existence contains no suffering or wanting, then it’s better to stay in non-existence than to take the chance on existing through what could well be an unsatisfactory life.  They know they will miss out on our life’s pleasures, but they won’t be hurt by life’s miseries either.
Unfortunately, the above scenario is impossible in reality, even in theory. After all, our hypothetical pre-existing spirit is actually nonexistent. This means the pre-conceived can neither know the rules for living in our world nor the consequences of living in this world.  Neither can they refuse to play the game in the first place agree. In fact, it’s utterly impossible to know beforehand if a potential person would think the Game of Life worth playing given its rules.
All this makes giving birth to people tantamount to forcing them into a type of existence they profoundly object to.  Unlike already existing people who do have duties to others, nor can the non-existent cannot harm others by dereliction of those duties; as discussed earlier. If this is the case, then one can argue that forcing a person to exist merely because humanity as a whole wishes to continue its existence amounts to exploitation at best and outright torture at worst; all done in the name of whatever motivation caused the parents to create that child. This remains true even when humanity's survival depends on it.
From all this, one can draw two analogies to bringing someone into existence without their consent: forcing someone into a signing a business or other legal contract under duress, and a financial planner investing a client's money into a company the client they objects to.  Few, if any, people will justify either of these actions even if the signer or client did benefit from it.  What makes such actions wrong even if a real benefit comes from it is consent, a vital part of the legal doctrine of "the meeting of the minds"; without which few, if any, legal agreements can be valid.  It doesn't matter if we neither understand nor even know their reasons for opposing entering such an agreement or investing their money in such a company. The fact remains that, for whatever reason, they don't want to do so; which by itself is enough of a reason not to force them into such actions or agreements. So it is with forcing someone into a realm of existence when they, had they been able to do so, refused to come into existence.

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