One of the reasons why most of us feel puzzled about the
problem of abortion is that we want, and do not want, to
allow to the unborn child the rights that belong to adults
and children. When we think of a baby about to be born it
seems absurd to think that the next few minutes or even
hours could make so radical a difference to its status; yet
as we go back in the life of the fetus we are more and
more reluctant to say that this is a human being and must
be treated as such. No doubt this is the deepest source of
our dilemma, but it is not the only one. For we are also
confused about the general question of what we may and
may not do where the interests of human beings conflict.
We have strong intuitions about certain cases; saying, for
instance, that it is all right to raise the level of education
in our country, though statistics allow us to predict that a
rise in the suicide rate will follow, while it is not all right
to kill the feeble-minded to aid cancer research. It is not
easy, however, to see the principles involved, and one
way of throwing light on the abortion issue will be by
setting up parallels involving adults or children once born.
So we will be able to isolate the “equal rights” issue and
should be able to make some advance...