An interesting opinion in today’s Ottawa Citizen. The author is admittedly pro-choice, believing that abortion must remain a question of individual conscience, but comes swinging against Morgentaler’s Order of Canada nonetheless. I would love to hear more discussions like this one, where the outcome of the debate — should Morgentaler have been nominated? — does not hinge on one’s moral position on abortion. Morgentaler’s nomination is wrong for many more reasons than his morals (or lack thereof).
That being said, I must still register my disagreement with the author’s statement that a fetus’ moral status can be circumscribed by its inability to value its own life. I recently had to take my dog to the veterinarian to be euthanised, a decision I don’t wish on anybody. My oldest daughter was tearfully telling me, a couple of days later, how heart-breaking it was to see the dog go in the car like it was just another car ride, and had he known, etc. Warnings about the uselessness of anthropomorphizing the dog went into deaf ears. The dog didn’t understand where he went — or why — and while to Liesl this was heart-breaking, I found it somewhat comforting. Some years ago I read Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and I cannot yet wrap my head around the expectancy of death, particularly when it comes at the hands of another. Assuredly, the ability to value one’s own life makes looking forward to one’s own death with more poignancy or fear. Similarly, we could say that people who take their own lives do so at the end of a tragic road of self-devaluation. However, I do not think that we can so easily equate moral status with self-valuation. Because, if you will allow me a moment of very bad taste, I’m not sure my 2-year-old son is yet able to value his own life. In fact, according to the decibel register at my house lately, he would convince anybody that his life is very miserable. Still, if I took his life, I would not only be a criminal in the eyes of the law but a very sick or rotten individual in the eyes of everybody else. In a nutshell, the ability to value one’s own life may be enough to abortion supporters but it doesn’t explain why it no longer matters after the child is born.
Rebecca adds: To take Véronique’s point further: at the moment, we (as a society) do not believe that the elderly infirm can be killed because they may not be aware of their own existence and consciousness, nor do we believe this about people of any age suffering brain damage that impairs their consciousness. There are alarming signs that this may be changing, though, thanks to the valiant efforts of Peter Singer and his fellow travellers.