Why the Possibility of Miscarriage Does Not Justify Abortion

G. Stolyarov II
Issue CLV - May 20, 2008
Recommend this page.

A sample image

In “An Objectivist Condemnation of Abortion,” I argue that it is immoral and a violation of natural rights to terminate the life of a fetus, because a fetus has futuristic certainty that it will develop into a fully volitional, autonomous human being absent intervention. Some might object to this argument, claiming that many pregnancies end in miscarriage and that therefore the pregnancy’s coming to term is not guaranteed. However, although miscarriages do occur, this does not nullify the existence of futuristic certainty.

            First, the argument that the possibility of accidental miscarriage justifies the purposeful, active termination of a pregnancy is absurd when taken to its logical extreme. After all, the same reasoning could be applied to an already born infant or child. After all, that child could experience an accident and die due anything from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or a particularly unfortunate fall. Sometimes, the child’s death might not even be preventable by rudimentary caution. Does this justify the termination of the child’s life, simply because its continuation is not in all cases guaranteed? Few advocates of legalized abortion would apply their position to already born people, however.

            While it is impossible to predict all the vicissitudes of circumstance, it is possible to adopt a ceteris paribus analytical approach to decisions in order to judge the impact of those decisions alone. The assumption of ceteris paribus (Latin for “all other things equal”)  is the only way for the human mind to make analytical sense of what would otherwise be an inscrutable jumble of billions of simultaneous events. All other things equal, a currently viable pregnancy will continue to be viable outside of human intervention to stop it. In the real world, all other things are seldom equal, but making the ceteris paribus assumption is the only way for people to be able to gain any theoretical insight at all regarding the impact of any particular single action. When making any decision and expecting it to be effective, all humans use ceteris paribus all the time. When the decision is whether or not to perform an abortion, the ceteris paribus assumption implies that without the abortion, the fetus will live and be born; with the abortion, the fetus will die with certainty.

            Indeed, it is specious to claim the possibility of miscarriage as a reason to allow legalized abortion, because an abortion is not made under the expectation that a miscarriage will occur. Indeed, if a miscarriage were to be expected, the abortion would not be necessary. Those who perform abortions act under the ceteris paribus assumption of futuristic certainty that the fetus will be born outside their intervention. This makes them guilty of knowingly terminating a human being that would have fully developed without their interference.

            Furthermore, we must be careful about lumping all pregnancies together into a single category and thinking of that category as something unitary. That is to say, just because some pregnancies end in miscarriage, this does not allow us to make any statement legitimately applicable to all pregnancies – because the circumstances of some pregnancies are such that a miscarriage is inevitable, while for others miscarriage may only be slightly probable. For many pregnancies, miscarriage is altogether out of the question, as both the mother and the fetus are healthy, and the mother’s body’s chemistry is not such as would induce a miscarriage.

            Let us take the case of Pregnancy X, which – due to some biological factors – is going to end in a miscarriage. If it does end in a miscarriage, then purposeful abortion is not an issue at all, because the pregnancy will not come to term anyway. The only pregnancies to which an abortion would ever be applied are those that would not end in miscarriages otherwise – or else what would the point of having an abortion be? In the case of such a healthy pregnancy – say, Pregnancy Y – miscarriage is a non-issue and abortion cannot be justified. But the possibility of some pregnancies ending in miscarriage is used by advocates of legalized abortion to call for ending the pregnancies that would not end in miscarriage! If this is not a sleight of hand, I know not what is.

            Finally, when discussing the issue of abortion, it is necessary, by ceteris paribus, to abstract away all other interfering factors and get to the core of the matter at hand. It is indeed possible for the mother to be ill or for her body chemistry to reject the fetus. It might even be possible that the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, in which case I have argued that an abortion might be legitimate. But to consider whether abortion per se is legitimate, we need to assume a situation with no extenuating circumstances – that is, a healthy mother carrying a healthy fetus such that no miscarriage will come about. Then we need to ask the question, “If all evidence says that this particular fetus will not die and will indeed be born without any health problems, is an abortion justified, or is it a violation of the fetus’s natural rights?” If we answer that it is a violation of the fetus’s natural rights, then we can conclude that abortion per se is immoral. Then, we can move on to considering the possible extenuating circumstances where the mother or the fetus are not healthy, or the pregnancy is not voluntary. It is important to note that it is still possible to conclude that abortion in those cases might be illegitimate, as I have argued in “Ethical Arguments Against Abortion: The Cases of Rape and Life Endangerment.”

            The possibility of miscarriage does not nullify the futuristic certainty of a pregnancy when the ceteris paribus assumption is used, as it must be when discussing the isolated impact of any particular human decision. Moreover, advocates of legalized abortions illegitimately invoke the possibility of miscarriage to specifically target pregnancies that would not have ended in miscarriage absent intervention.   

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov's works have been published on GrasstopsUSA.com. He also posts his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. His most recent play is Implied Consent. You can also view his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com. 

Recommend this page.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue CLV Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.

Disclaimer: The presence of the following advertisement serves as an attempt to eventually enable The Rational Argumentator to generate sufficient revenues to cover the costs of its domain name. TRA does not foresee making an actual profit with these advertisements for a long time. The advertisement does not necessarily reflect the views of TRA or any of its contributors, and the readers are encouraged to judge it on its own merits.