A reader writes:
I'm as pro-choice as they come but even I can spot the flaw in your reader's email on "pro-life absolutism."
The reader argues that the pro-lifer's position is shown to be false by reflection on the fact that it would be immoral to save a tray of embryos instead of a baby in a case where one can save only one or the other. But all the pro-lifer needs to think is that, like babies, embryos have an inviolable right to life. This belief is compatible with its being wrong to save the embryo instead of the baby.
Compare: both my wife and your husband have an inviolable right to life; nevertheless, it would be wrong for me to save your husband instead of my wife in a situation in which I can only save one - she's my wife and I don't know your husband! For the careful pro-lifer, the burning embryo clinic case is like this one. The baby has more moral status than the embryo since the baby has actually experienced consciousness; but they've both got an inviolable right to life.
I wonder if this argument leads one to believe that morning-after cntraception is less morally troubling than second trimester abortion? Or can a baby experience consciousness in the womb? Another reader comments:
While I agree with the reader's general point (that pro-lifers' absolutism makes the possibility of a rational discourse on abortion very difficult) it is also important to remember that the feminists' absolutism ("my body my right to choose") which ignores all the social ramifications of abortion is also a contributing factor to the lack of compromise and rationality.
But what really struck me from the email you posted is the following. Isn't the gedanken's question the reader uses to morally justify abortion (if you believe an embryo is a person, would you save a tray full of embryos or a living child) similar in its absurdity to the "ticking bomb" scenario used to morally justify torture?