Using force to prevent a murder

Don’t worry, this is a purely theoretical question!

If someone is planning to kill an innocent person and I know that he most likely will do it, and the only way to prevent him from doing that, is using force (e.g. lock him up) then am I allowed to do it.
If the answer is yes, does the same logic apply to abortion? If I knew, a woman is about to abort her baby, would it be morally acceptable to lock her up until the 12th week of pregnancy (in many countries it’s illegal to abort after the 12th week)? If no, could you give a good argument, why you think that?

It’s like asking if you went back in time would it be moral to kill Hitler in his youth, knowing what he would grow up to be.

Good question. I would say no, because it’s not allowed to do something ewil to achieve a good effect. However it would be something different, if he already did murder someone or would already have concrete plans to do that. In that case you probably shouldn’t kill him either but you could “kidnap” him or use force to prevent him from harming someone.

“Allowed” or not, I would use all necessary force in the first hypothetical situation, then notify the authorities. But no, I would not “lock up” the woman seeking an abortion (because if I did, I would be locked up myself!)

The first situation requires prevention so that evil will not take place. It is your duty to inform the police about it. The second situation is totally different. Can you deprive anyone from exercising her free will? I don’t think so.

For the sake of the argument let’s assume that also in the first case you would be in conflict with the law. Let’s assume, you are living during the Hitler-regime and you see someone, who want’s to kill a jew. Preventing him from doing that would be illegal and get you in prison (if not even worse). What then?

The “even worse” as in being dead, is almost certain to apply, so I for one would not have the courage.

However, laws that permit that kind of persecution are themselves unjust, so no moral issues would apply.


Aren’t abortion laws unjust laws as well?

Am I missing something? Why wouldn’t you simply give any evidence to the police including the location of such a person so he could be arrested??

No. Using the same line of thought it would be ok to incarcerate or physically harm an abortionist to stop abortions. It is not ok to do that.

I’ve often considered this. The reason police are authorized to use lethal force is because they have a duty to each citizen to protect him/her. Individual citizens don;t have that authority. Even a citizen’s arrest of an abortionist would be considered assault, as, according to the law, abortion is not an indictable offence. (I’m Canadian, forgive me if my legalese makes no sense to American systems.)

I guess what I’m getting at, is that physically preventing the abortion is contrary to civil law, sadly. But, preventing it through other means is not, for instance, counselling, information distribution, etc.

Like those who hid Anne Frank and her family, I would hopefully recognize the regime and their laws as evil. But I see your point. Many such decisions might be a tough call!

I don’t know about Canada but it is most certainly not true that the police in the US have a duty to protect citizens except in very limited circumstances. In the US anyone can use lethal force to protect themselves. In practice the police have a much lower bar for when they can use deadly force. Historically citizens had more powers in the past as there were not police forces. In my state a citizen can detain a person who committed a felony, an act that would otherwise be a crime, but cannot transport or move that person.

Yes, but one could argue that the person doing the locking up, was actually saving a life. That would be interesting to see such a case work its way thru the courts though.

I dont know about anyone else, but Ive always thought its kind of odd, most people that hear of a parent killing their kids on the news, to be utterly shocking, people go around saying ‘I cant believe any parent could do such a thing’, especially if they killed a newborn or very young child, but then when abortions take place daily, no one seems to think that is wrong…?? Did I miss something or…?

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