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On Abortion and the Eating of Meat

I have friends of all kinds, and that includes one friend several readers were shocked to learn of several months ago: a country-music lovin’ woman who has fur coats. Now, she’s not the typical country-music lovin’ woman; she’s from the northeast, is highly educated, and is a gym-goin’, Lexux SUV-drivin’, suburban mom of two adorable boys who aren’t allowed to eat candy, drink soda, or go to McDonald’s. She is "pro-life," or anti-choice, depending on where YOU stand. She is respectful of my beliefs and doesn’t push Jesus on me (not that there’s anything wrong with his story–it’s one of my favorites!).

There’s nothing she can’t say to me, and vice versa, but she nevertheless treaded into the dicey area of abortion several nights ago, thinking (I’m sure): I’m gonna catch her being a hypocrite, as I know she’s not pro-life.

Friend of Mary: If your personal ethic says that killing without necessity is morally unjustifiable, how can you be pro-abortion?

Mary: First of all, friend, no one is pro-abortion; they’re pro-choice. Second, there are two issues here: my personal views on abortion, and what I believe should occur as a matter of law. Regardless of my beliefs, should the government be able to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body? As far as I know, there is a lot of evidence that after 8 weeks the human fetus is sentient. And if killing a sentient being without necessity is morally unjustifiable, then abortion after 8 weeks would be morally unjustifiable.

Friend of Mary: So you agree with me, that abortion should be illegal.

Mary: No. I don’t agree. In fact, as long as it’s legal to kill nonhuman animals for food, clothing, or sport, abortion (when neither the mother’s nor the fetus’ life is at stake) should be legal as well. I’m not saying a human fetus and a cow are equal or have the same value, but if they have the same capacity for pleasure and pain, they are both sentient. If you can decide to take the life of one for your own reasons (like taste or fashion), you should be able to decide to take the life of the other (whatever your reasons are for not bringing another human child into the world). If nonviolence is the principle that guides your life, it shouldn’t discriminate.


I’m sure to get loads of e-mails about this, but I just don’t understand how someone could be vehemently anti-choice, yet not use the very same logic (i.e., it’s murder) for killing a sentient being who’s not human.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cláudio Godoy #


    Just a small complain. You said: "I'm not saying a human fetus and a cow are equal or have the same value but(…)". That's not right. From a true animal rights perspective, they have exactly the same value, because their value is intrinsic and it's not conditioned by what humans think it should be. Because if their value were intrinsecaly different, we could justify the use of the inferior sentient beings if it benefited the superior ones (pretty much as humans do today). Maybe you, Mary Martin, was just expressing your preference, and there's absolutely nothing wrong about that. Or maybe you were trying to show her for strategic reasons that even the most radical animal defender still preffers humans than nonhuman animals.

    May 1, 2007
  2. Actually, I said "I'm not saying they have the same value," but I didn't say they didn't. Value, in reality, completely depends on the situation. My dog is worth more to me than someone else's, and maybe someone else's kid, because she's my dog and I'm attached to her. Maybe if I have a child, that child will have greater value to me than my dogs or cat. Maybe not. But do all sentient beings have equal right (in my mind) to live their natural lives in freedom? Yes. People more so than nonhuman animals (just because their people)? No.

    May 1, 2007
  3. Clafou #

    It's great you can stay friends with her whilst discussing issues that you disagree so much about. But still. If you have fur coats (with an s to mark plural) in 2007, drive a SUV in 2007, and are pro-choice, then you neatly fall into the category of the right-wing American, the people that we non-American are so concerned about: the category of American people who, with their lifestyle and political influence, are well on their way to destroying the planet (the environment, society, and human civilisation through modern war). You are great and really open-minded, but I couldn't be friends with someone like that, just like 60 years ago I wouldn't have wanted a nazi friend.

    May 3, 2007

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