Abortion Question, Violinist

Hi all. I hope I put this in the right forum. Sorry if I didn’t.

Onto my question. I was researching arguments against abortion from r a speech I had to write for my English class. There was one argument though that I cannot seem to answer. It is Thomson’s violinist argument. I’ll put it here.

"I propose, then, that we grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. How does the argument go from here? Something like this, I take it. Every person has a right to life. So the fetus has a right to life. No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body; everyone would grant that. But surely a person’s right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body, and so outweighs it. So the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed.

It sounds plausible. But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says, “Tough luck, I agree, but you’ve now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago."

This argument seems to make sense, until you realize that it only applies to instances of pregnancies from rape. It also doesn’t excuse surgical abortions because they directly kill the fetus. However, and this is the thing I cannot answer, doesn’t this argument excuse the RU-486 pill in cases of rape? After all, it detached the embryo for the uterus, which sounds a lot like the unhooking from the violinist. Also if there was a surgery which cut the child’s umbilical cord in utero (in rape cases only, of course), wouldn’t that essentially be the same thing? Please help. I cannot find any satisfying answer to this.

Can you tell us the type of educational institution this English class comes from? When such topics are involved, the focus readily becomes the emotion and belief systems involved, rather than “English”.

Abortion is morally wrong (if one is accepting of the moral theology taught by the Church), because intentionally depriving an innocent person of life - ie. acts with that moral object - are always wrong. A pregnant woman may no more act in a way that wills the death of her unborn than a mother may will the death of the child she is obligated to house, feed, clothe and educate till adulthood.

…They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him.

Your last sentence is suggestive of an error of moral reasoning. To unplug is to return the poor violinist to his State prior to the doing of an injustice to you. The Violinist existed prior to you appearing on the scene, and he was dying. There is not a moral obligation on any person to donate their body or their freedom in the delivery of such extreme medical aid. To refuse such aid, or to cease such aid unjustly secured - eg. by disconnecting cables, tubes etc, - is not the moral act of murdering, even if it may ultimately lead to the violinist’s death.

Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?

No.

No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still?

While we are called to acts of kindness (“love thy neighbour”), their extent is not prescribed. This is in stark contrast to the negative precepts (such as "thou shall’t not kill) which is an absolute obligation.

This argument seems to make sense, until you realize that it only applies to instances of pregnancies from rape. It also doesn’t excuse surgical abortions because they directly kill the fetus. However, and this is the thing I cannot answer, doesn’t this argument excuse the RU-486 pill in cases of rape?

As discussed, the analogy of the violinist fails.

After all, it detached the embryo for the uterus, which sounds a lot like the unhooking from the violinist. Also if there was a surgery which cut the child’s umbilical cord in utero (in rape cases only, of course), wouldn’t that essentially be the same thing? Please help. I cannot find any satisfying answer to this.

Attacking the baby is murder. Detaching from the violinist is restoring the proper order - which is one in which the violinist is dying, and will be allowed to die.

Exactly. The violinist argument is extraordinarily weak.

Yes, but isn’t the staus quo ante also one in which a baby hasn’t been concieved yet?

(Of course it leaves aside the overwhelming moral duty for a mother, and indeed a father, to care for their children, but that’s kind of beside the point)

Sure. Do you draw some conclusion from that?

I failed to respond to the RU486 question.

I don’t know exactly what taking that drug does - if its action is simply to prevent conception, then taking it in the context of rape would be moral - for it is then a means to end the unjust assault which continues after the rapist has left the scene.

If its action is to imperil the child after conception, then to take it is akin to an attempted murder.

Well not a conclusion that I’m advocating personally: just that if it’s moral, to restore the ‘proper order’, even if doing so risks ending a life (the violinist’s in this case), then why can’t one use the same argument for abortion? I mean, generally, ignoring the fact that the mother is kind of biologically hooked up to her child since implantation and morally since conception.

Freeing oneself from captivity does not involve an act against the violinist. The violinist dies because he has a deadly illness.

Restoring the proper order is not moral if achieved by morally evil means, eg. Murder. Removing tubes from one’s own body (put there unjustly) is not itself morally evil. How does one judge how much captivity is fair to trade to save the violinist? And isn’t this question rather similar to “how much money should I give to a life saving charity?”. If I give more, fewer will die. Is their death imputable to me, or to their predicament? what is my obligation? The moral law does not quantify this.

Abortion is an act against the child - morally evil. It can be distinguished from medical treatment required by the mother, applied to the mother, but which unintentionally imperils the child.

This reminds me of the old kidney stealing urban legend. People wake up in a bathtub full of ice with their kidneys missing.

Ah now THAT makes sense. Thank you :slight_smile: :thumbsup:

Simply put, two wrongs don’t make a right. Especially when, for lack of a better way of putting it, the ‘revenge’ for the crime becomes an act against an innocent person - the fetus or zygote.

When **** happens, a victim can only go so far in rectifying the wrong. If I’m run over by a drunk driver and lose kidney, I don’t have a right to take the perpetrators kidney for myself; I have to live with the consequences of a wrong that someone else has done to me, although other moral means of justice are available to me. The same is the case with rape - abortion is not a moral means of justice to try to ‘undo’ the rape.

I’m no expert, but unless someone is unable to get medical care immediately after a rape, there is usually time to stop the conception from taking place so that an abortifacient is not necessary.

Also, I think it helps to think about the spectrum of ways in which conception takes place…from a loving agreement between spouse, to incest of a minor. There is a lot in-between: from arranged marriages, to drunken high school escapades, to wives who don’t really want to be pregnant but go along with it anyway out of fear or something else. Anyway, there is certainly a lot to think about.

Here’s an excerpt from Persuasive Pro Life by Trent Horn (it’s long, but bear with me). In it, he explains the idea of a “reverse violinist”:

Imagine you wake up in a hospital to discover that your kidneys have been connected to Thomson’s unconscious violinist. You decide that the violinist has no right to use your kidneys, and you unplug yourself and start to walk out of the room. The director of the hospital sees you and shouts, “Oh, no! You have to plug yourself back in or you will die!” Feeling lightheaded and nauseous, you struggle back to the bed and replug yourself into the violinist. The hospital director explains to you that the violinist is a member of the Society of Musical Pranksters. The pranksters go around plugging their members’ kidneys into sleeping or unconscious innocent people for the “thrill” of the experience. They take precautions to make sure no damage is done and that the members can be unplugged in a few minutes, but every now and then the bond sticks and the connection damages the innocent person’s kidneys. This forces that person to rely on the use of the prankster’s body for nine months until his own kidneys heal. After hearing this, the stress of the situation causes you to pass out just as the violinist wakes up. The violinist decides that you have no right to use his body without his consent, and he unplugs from you. He walks out of the hospital, you die from kidney failure, and your lifeless body is disposed of in the hospital incinerator. Surely this situation is terribly unjust. The violinist engaged in an activity he knew could cause someone like you to need the use of his body. Therefore, it seems outrageous to say he has the right to withhold the support you need to live, when he is responsible for placing you in need of his support in the first place.

We were writing persuasive speeches

This is just another version of the fetus is a parasite analogy. The woman consents to giving birth to a child whenever she has sex. The same applies to the man. When he consents to sex then if a child is created he is now obligated to raise the child. :thumbsup:

[Warning: What follows is not a persuasive argument, but is really a shift of focus. But: If you’re going to be "pro-choice", does the choice matter?]**

Ah, imagine: Being intimately connected with all that beautiful music for the next nine months, years, or even the rest of my life! What joy!

Wait… Is the violinist homosexual? I don’t want a homosexual violinist. :nope:

Or worse: Is the violinist a *woman!? *I don’t want a girl violinist – Hilary Hahn aside, female violinists are not worth nearly as much as male violinists.

If this is not the violinist I want, that’s all that matters – Cut her off.

:twocents:
tee

Which is why I am only asking about rape. Because there is no consent there.

Abortion is morally wrong (if one is accepting of the moral theology taught by the Church), because intentionally depriving an innocent person of life - ie. acts with that moral object - are always wrong. A pregnant woman may no more act in a way that wills the death of her unborn than a mother may will the death of the child she is obligated to house, feed, clothe and educate till adulthood. . . .

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=14581100&postcount=3

Good post Rau.

God bless.

Cathoholic

I guess my question then is why is unplugging yourself (an active action) different. What if the violinist was the son of the woman? Would she ten have a obligation? Why is the Ru-486 pill different, if it just disconnects the embryo?

No doubt. On a hyper-chatged emotional topic. What type of institution proposes that?

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