I Am “Pro-Death”
Concerning abortion, for ages the anti-choice community has (incorrectly, I might add) labeled pro-choicers as “pro-death,” I guess as a direct antonym to the term “pro-life” which they erroneously refer to themselves as. I personally don’t know any pro-choice individual who could be described as such, though as my understanding of the world and life itself has evolved, I suppose it is an accurate description of how my views on abortion have shifted over the years.
The pro-death view of abortion is merely a natural extension of the antinatalist view. Since coming into existence is the worst possible thing that could happen to an individual, it naturally follows that a pro-death view of abortion is the most logically consistent. Of course, the best possible thing is to prevent pregnancy at all costs so so that abortion doesn’t have to take place, but that’s the ideal world and we don’t live in the ideal world.
Now, some will argue that one has already come into existence at the moment of conception. Biologically speaking, I think, they are correct. I have never denied that biologically speaking a new life begins at conception. That said, I (and Benatar, I should add) reject the moral significance of a zygote and even an early-term fetus for the same reason I reject the moral significance of a plant’s life, namely that it is non-sentient. Sentience is a prerequisite to regard a life form as morally significant.
So now that we’ve established the moral insignificance of an embryo, we can hence build the case for a pro-death position on abortion. Since it is better never to have been brought into existence, and given that no life is worth starting, it naturally follows that aborting all pregnancies is the mode of least harm. The mother suffers some harm during the procedure in the case of pain and recovery, but these are much less than the harm she will suffer during labor and the nearly two decades following raising that child. Further, since coming into existence is the greatest harm of all, aborting an early-term pregnancy prevents the fetus from coming into existence in a morally significant way, thus sparing them the suffering that would await them in an earthly life.
Though Benatar doesn’t address late-term abortion in his excellent book, I will do so here briefly. Late in gestation a fetus attains sentience and thus a morally significant existence. At this point, I think for the most part abortion is indefensible even though I think abortion should be legal for the duration of pregnancy. I have multiple reasons for this line of thinking. In many cases, the family dynamic changes (loss of job, father walks out, etc.) that would put undue hardship on the raising of the child. There are also some deformities that don’t become apparent until the later stages of prenatal development, most of which would make life unbearably difficult. There is also the case where the mother’s life is in jeopardy, which I don’t think needs to be addressed. All that said, I still regard late-term abortion as a much lesser harm than a worldly existence, so that even though late-term abortion is reprehensible in my mind (in most cases, with the above notable exceptions) it is still a lesser evil than being born.
Thus is the case for the pro-death view of abortion, based on the antinatalist position of being brought into existence. Since being brought into existence in the morally significant way is the greatest harm of all, it can easily be concluded that the best possible thing would be to terminate all pregnancies in the early stages, but also that late-term abortion is a lesser harm than being born.