The Abortion Arguments of Cider House Rules
I am writing this essay on a Saturday evening, not with any real contemplation, or even planning. I am writing this because I was just minutes ago watching the movie Cider House Rules. I won't go into the plot of the movie, but, to explain my motivation for writing this, I will simply describe one portion of the movie.
The scene at issue in my mind right now is one where a fourteen-year-old girl comes to the orphanage which is the setting for part of the movie. This girl came to the orphanage because it was known in the region as a place that performed abortions. She had had a crude abortion performed in such a way that she had been severely injured (her uterus was punctured by a crochet hook, and, not being a sterile instrument, this caused an infection of the uterine lining, eventually killing her). The resident doctor is disgusted by this, and uses the girl's injury as an example explaining why he performs abortions. The doctor's argument is fairly simple. If the girl had come to him, rather than the ignorant abortionist she chose, she would likely have survived. In addition, he claims that potential parents have a right to choose to be parents or to not be parents. The doctor, a seeming proponent of utilitarianism, says that this demonstrates a duty to perform abortions.
The young man to which the doctor is speaking, Homer, has been in essence an apprentice under the doctor, but has refused to perform abortions. His reasoning is this: those individuals seeking an abortion should have been responsible enough to have not conceived an unwanted child. Their lack of sexual responsibility should not be an excuse to take human life.
Homer, while not legally a doctor (having had no formal training) believes the doctor's reasoning to be faulty. He refuses to dehumanize the fetus, and insists that the "potential parents" be responsible for their actions. In the movie, Homer is an orphan, and this may provide an interesting perspective in regards to the status of the fetus. As an unwanted child himself, he empathizes with the unborn children that he refuses to destroy.
So far, all we have talked about really is the emotion of the question of abortion. The purpose of this essay (which will not be very long), is to examine these lines of reasoning, and to come to some conclusion about the differing philosophies of these two characters.
The doctor's argument is, as I mentioned, very much a utilitarian one, and as you know, this sort of argument doesn't sit well with me (see my "Truth" essays). Regardless of my perspective, though, the doctor's first argument is one which many people (including some that I greatly respect) accept as a good reason for legalized abortion. The doctor is making the very simple assessment that one death is preferable to two. If the mother dies along with the baby, this is a waste and a shame, therefore he feels as though he is obligated to perform an abortion...