Contrary to Anti-Abortionists, Life Is Not a Checklist, and a Fetus Is Not a Person

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. Please “follow” me to never miss an article.

An article[i] in the Saturday, August 20th edition of The New York Times on Doctors finding it hard to live with the ambiguities of Abortion Bans ends with the incontestable (for me at least) assertion that no List could possibly cover every possible situation. Thus, contrary to the desires of Anti-Abortionists, a Definitive List of conditions under which Abortions are never allowed is impossible. In short, Life is too complicated to reduce it to a Set of Dos and Don’ts that apply Universally to all people for all times.

Is a Miscarriage, induced or not, to be treated as an Abortion? If a fetus is suffering from a Life-Threatening Condition such that it will not survive for long outside of the Womb, is the mother still required to carry it to term? Are there to be no exceptions for Rape or Incest? Are there no exceptions for the Age, Mental Health, Financial Condition, and other Factors of the mother, and father? Is Abortion Murder? Is such extreme Language justified, and therefore to be tolerated?

None of the above can be given nice, neat short answers that apply for all time. Life is not an Exercise that is found at the end of textbooks. Instead, it’s a series of Open-Ended Messy Problems requiring the constant exercise of Critical Thinking and Reasoned Judgement. It means weighing the Pros and Cons of particular cases. It means questioning one’s Past Decisions and even one’s Basic Values.

However, it does not mean never coming to firm conclusions and being indecisive, but being open to alternate views. The problem is that with Anti-Abortionists pushing hard to get Fetuses declared Persons, thereby making Abortion Murder[ii], it’s become virtually impossible to have a reasonable consideration, let alone discussion, of other views.

Critical Thinking is all the more necessary. But it can’t be one-sided. It requires the commitment of all parties.

[i] Ava Sasani and Emily Cochrane, “Doctors Finding Abortions Bans Hard to Decode,” The New York Times, Saturday, August 20, 2022, PP. A1 and A13.

[ii] Kate Zernike, “Activists Push To Get Fetuses Person Status,” The New York Times, Monday, August 22, 2022, PP. A1and A17.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo Credit: coffeekai



Professor Emeritus USC

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