It’s a rare sight when a Hollywood star challenges an argument for abortion. But then, this is an argument so incomprehensible that even the most strident abortion supporters are likely shaking their heads in dismay.
Actor James Franco (Spider-Man), together with philosophy professor Eliot Michaelson, recently launched a YouTube series, “Philosophy Time,” where the two discuss “contemporary philosophy” with “special guests.”
On July 25, philosphy professor Liz Harman of Princeton University appeared on their show as one of those “special guests” to justify abortion. However, her discussion appeared to leave James Franco (and the media!) more confused than enlightened.
A difficult feat in a Hollywood media world that routinely promotes abortion.
From the beginning, Harman admitted, “In some of my work, I defend a liberal position about early abortion” or the “view that there’s nothing morally bad about early abortion.”
Why she only chose “early abortion,” she never once explained.
“I think if a fetus hasn’t ever been conscious, it hasn’t ever had any experiences, and we aborted it at that stage that actually nothing morally bad happens,” she added, as a cartoon of a fetus appeared on the screen. Video below.
According to Harman, an unborn baby has no future if it’s going to be aborted (well, duh). But, in her own words:
But what I think is that, actually among early fetuses, there are two very different kinds of beings. So, James, when you were an early fetus, and Eliot, when you were an early fetus, all of us, I think that we already did have moral status then. But we had moral status in virtue of our futures. And future of the fact that we were the beginning stages of persons. But some early fetuses will die in early in pregnancy either due to abortion or miscarriage. And in my view, that’s a very different kind of entity. That's something that doesn't have a future as a person and it doesn't have moral status.
Both Michaelson and Franco challenged her, with Franco asking, “Can’t you only judge that in hindsight?”
She responded, “Right, so there’s a real question of ‘how could we know?’” But, according to Harman, “often we do know”:
So often, if we know that a woman is planning to get an abortion, and we know that abortion is available to her, then we know that that fetus is going to die – that it’s not a kind of thing like the fetuses that became us. It’s not something with moral status, in my view. Often we have reason to believe that a fetus is the beginning stage of a person. So, if we know that a woman is planning to continue her pregnancy, then we have good reason to think that her fetus is something with moral status, something with this future as a person.
Again, Franco challenged her.
“So what you’re saying is if the fetus is never destined to become a person, it doesn’t have ‘moral status,’” he checked. “If a woman decides to have an abortion with an early fetus, just that act or that intention negates the ‘moral status’ of that early fetus, just because if she goes out and has an abortion, it’s pretty certain that it’s not going to become a person?”
Harman admitted she could see why he thought that – but she disagreed. She said there were two reasons why:
So one reason is that, even, so you have moral status – and in my view, back when you were in early fetus, you had moral status – but it’s not that aborting you would have been wrong because if your mother had chosen to abort her pregnancy, then it wouldn’t have been the case that you would have had moral status because you would have died as an early fetus, so she would have been aborting something that didn’t have moral status.
And in case that wasn’t clear enough, she continued:
So it’s not—so my view isn’t that if you do abort, abortion is OK but if you don’t abort, abortion would have been wrong. But what it turns out, is that it’s a contingent matter that you have moral status. You actually have moral status, but you might not have counted morally at all if you had been aborted. You would have existed, but you just would have had this really very short existence in which you wouldn’t have mattered morally.
So an unborn baby has moral status after all? Or maybe not, as she offered one last thought:
I think the right way to look at it is that just given the current state of the fetus, you know, it’s not having any experiences, there’s nothing about its current state that would make it a member of the moral community. It’s derivative of its future that it gets to have moral status. So it’s really that the future and endows moral status on it, and if we allow it to have this future and then we’re allowing it to be the kind of thing that now would have moral status. So in aborting it I don’t think you’re depriving it of something that it independently has.
And from there, Franco concluded, “I think we could talk about this forever.”
In his piece for Mediaite, writer Joseph A. Wulfsohn summed up the situation perfectly:
At least with the pro-life people, they’re consistent with their logic from conception to the birth: life is life and it ought to be protected. With Harman, she clearly needed to develop a personal rationale for terminating a pregnancy and she did so by creating this “moral status” nonsense.
Having an abortion is one of the most painful decisions a woman can make, but the argument that it’s not “morally bad” simply because you didn’t give the fetus any value in the form of “moral status” is completely illogical and totally bizarre. Harman would better serve the pro-choice community if she dropped this subject altogether and defend things that she can defend without sounding absurd."
(h/t Free Beacon)