On The Moral Value of A Fetus

Considering the extraordinarily bizarre and circular argument Princeton philosophy professor Elizabeth Harmon is making for abortion in the video linked below, the “WTF” look on James Franco’s face is perfectly understandable.

I’m not very familiar with Franco, but his Wikipedia page lists no less than seven highly esteemed universities among those he attended and that his upbringing was “academic, liberal, and largely secular.” It’s a stereotype that actors are not well-educated, but Franco obviously is. So, it’s no surprise that he’s able to pick up on the incoherence of Professor Harmon’s argument.

Harmon basically argues that a fetus possesses no moral value unless it is given to her by her mother. But, we only know that said fetus possesses moral value retroactively, based on whether or not the mother chose to abort. So, James Franco always possessed moral value as a fetus because his mother chose not to abort him. But, we only know that he possessed moral value as a fetus retroactively, because it’s only possible to assess his moral value as a fetus on the basis of his mother having chosen life for him. Had his mother chosen to abort him, then he would never have possessed moral value as a fetus.

Get it? If not, don’t fret none. The argument is incoherent. What Harmon is attempting to do is argue that a fetus only  possesses moral value if her mother assigns moral value to her fetus. But, she’s trying to make this argument in such a way that it doesn’t sound like she’s making that argument. Why? Because the idea that a human being possesses moral value only on the basis of another human being assigning moral value to him or her is repugnant. It’s basically an argument for slavery, or the ownership of one person by another. Think about it: If your value as a person is contingent on my assigning value to you, then you pretty much belong to me and I can do whatever I want to you. Harmon knows that this is morally absurd and repugnant to all decent thinking people, so she’s making that argument while at the same time pretending that she isn’t.

Her argument is also circular: you possessed no moral value as a fetus if you were aborted, but being aborted is what determined your lack of moral value.

If this represents the state of philosophy at Princeton, one must wonder at the quality of the philosophy department. If this is the best pro-abortion advocates have to offer as moral justification for abortion, then it’s no wonder more and more young people are rejecting their arguments.


Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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