By Roland Watson

9. Abortion, birth control

Social issues with major existential implications (particularly abortion), and which are also surrounded by all manner of form. Regarding abortion, as we have just seen we want to eliminate the taking of human life, and this logically extends to children, including unborn children. However, there is a conflicting existential issue here, which is that individuals should be able to control the circumstances, and make the major decisions, of their lives. To me, the resolution of this conflict is that when a baby is in the womb, it is dependent solely on the mother: it is in fact inseparable from her. Allowing it to live therefore remains her choice. Indeed, the unborn child is completely at her mercy. (The mother may continue the pregnancy, but also drink and smoke.) However, once the baby is born it is an independent entity, whom anyone can care for. Therefore, the mother loses this choice, and power.

As to the man who is responsible, through his participation in the pregnancy he has effectively granted his acceptance of the birth, and he does not have the right to demand its termination. Even if he was tricked by the woman he cannot demand this, since he could have used a condom to ensure effective birth control himself. Also, if the pregnancy is not terminated he has the right to care for (or to be involved in the care of) the child, or, along with the mother, to put it up for adoption. However, the existence of the possibility of adoption does not undermine the woman's option to choose abortion if she so desires. She cannot be forced to bear the child and then give it up. This is the worst kind of form, even if the person to whom she is forced to give the child is the father. Of course, she could take a merciful position and bear the child and then give it to a childless couple (or the father), but the choice remains hers.

The goal is to minimize unwanted pregnancies, such that abortion is only considered in the case of rape or when the unborn child suffers critical health defects. And this, again, is a measure of our social progress. Such progress can be judged by our steps in achieving the ubiquitous availability and affordability of birth control, and the education that goes with it, and the elimination of resistance to using it, such as the misplaced drive of the Catholic Church, which prohibits birth control other than the ineffectual rhythm method, and which therefore effectively seeks continued exponential growth in the human population.

10. Suicide, legally assisted suicide, euthanasia

Issues with great existential implications, and also the subject of form. If you are free to live your life dangerously, and to kill unborn children, you presumably are free to kill yourself as well. And even though society may reject this, I believe it is true, although with some qualifications. The first of these is that suicide is rarely the product of will. It almost always represents a desperate, and irrational, response to extreme personal circumstances. Our goal, therefore, should be to assist individuals in these circumstances, so they understand that they have options other than self-destruction. And, as this implies, when we become aware that someone is going to attempt suicide, we obviously have an obligation to stop them.

In a very few cases, though, suicide does have a rational basis, as for individuals who suffer from terminal illnesses (life is not a terminal illness!), and which are accompanied by great pain and loss of dignity (i.e., identity). In these cases people are free to end their lives, and may even seek our assistance. I would caution, though, that (1) they must make the decision and (2) actually implement it themselves, such as by pushing the button that releases life-ending drugs into their body. This is because there are many risks in these types of circumstances, particularly since such people are highly susceptible to persuasion. Those who encourage them to end their lives may not be seeking an end to their suffering, but rather an inheritance. Because of this, strict euthanasia, where someone else pushes the button, should never be allowed, and assistance should be provided only if the subject demonstrates mental competence to an independent psychiatrist, or panel of psychiatrists. (Wanting to end your life without the presence of the above conditions would also cause you to fail the competency exam.)

The only possible exception to this would be for people who are life-support dependent and brain dead.

© Roland Watson 2016