Although many of the opposing positions outlined above seem quite irreconcilable, there are certain values and goals behind these positions that offer the possibility of all being pursued and progressively satisfied in a balanced and reasonable way.
If we look at the goals of the pro-choice faction, we will find that they oppose the oppression of women by men and they want births to be controlled to satisfy the woman’s desire that the children she bears have a reasonable chance to lead fruitful lives. The pro-choice faction values the quality of life of women and children’s chances for a good life. They also uphold a “right to privacy.”
The pro-choice camp also tends to support the notion that the choice of having an abortion should be open to everyone, not just to those who can afford one. This position is motivated by a concern for the well-being of the poor, the future well-being of the offspring of the poor, and the future well-being of the public purse.
The pro-life advocates have certain values and goals also. They value human life, beginning at conception, as something sacred. They also tend to support what they see as “traditional family values,” involving, in part, mutual respect and commitment between men and women. They feel that women should not be used. They want women not to risk getting pregnant unless they are willing to allow the pregnancy to result in the birth of a child and then either place the child for adoption or rear it. They want men not to risk getting a woman pregnant unless they are willing to share the financial costs and other responsibilities of having and rearing children. They want to uphold a respect for and self discipline regarding the human reproductive function and to promote a wholesomeness in sexuality.
These are not the values of pro-life advocates alone. There is, however, a certain stridency in the voices of some pro-choice advocates who seem to see no hope for ever realizing decent treatment of women by men. The theory of doing the most good would say that boys can be taught to treat girls with courtesy and respect and that society can enforce the same kind of behavior upon men.
The main goal of the pro-life advocates presumably is to bring about reasonable protection of the unborn by the state and by society. A second goal would seem to be to promote mutual respect and commitment between men and women. A third goal would be a general reduced reliance upon abortion as a means of birth control. The question of what is “reasonable” protection of the unborn and how the second and third goals can be pursued will be discussed in the next section.
The pro-life advocates often describe their position as a respect for life. This phrase can be taken to be supportive of any of several worthwhile goals including the ending of capital punishment, increasing efforts for peaceful resolution of international conflicts and arms reduction, international efforts to fight malnutrition and life-threatening disease, efforts to protect the biosphere and preserve wildlife, and many kinds of efforts to improve the life prospects of children and the quality of life for adults.
In many nations the goal of improving the life prospects of children can only be met if adequate means of population control can be found. Nations with excessively large populations are a threat and a burden to other nations and tend to be destructive to the biosphere by stripping forests and despoiling lakes and rivers. Hence population control becomes a goal in itself.
Particularly in the wealthier nations efforts need to be made to restrict forms of consumption that waste natural resources or are destructive to the environment.
In addition to controlling the sizes of populations it would be desirable to raise the levels of intelligence and promote other special aptitudes through genetic policies, if there were means of doing so that would not be harmful in other ways.
From the earlier mention of the conflict between utilitarianism and naturalism on one side and spiritual pursuits on the other we might extract a goal of putting this conflict to rest. That is, the goal should be to bring about a recognition that the two are not in conflict, that there is a need for expansions of abilities in both the practical and the spiritual realm. Society needs to remain attuned to piety, reverence, and mysticism as well as tests and measurements.
Policies Consistent with the Aim of Doing the Most Good
Let us see how well the goals and values discussed in the last section could be served within the framework of our theory. Our theory envisions a society that would nurture the development and expansion of abilities and the application of these abilities to this nurturing process. Each person and each unit of society would be nurtured and guided toward making the fullest possible contribution to the nurturing of other persons and groups. All persons and groups would be encouraged to find and follow the course of development and course of action that will enable them to make whatever is their own fullest possible contribution.
We are then led to ask what are the appropriate ways society can nurture the development and proper use of abilities relating to the forming of relationships between men and women and the conceiving of children, the use of birth control measures, and decisions about whether or not to have an abortion.
Upon reflection, several courses of action appear to be appropriate, as described below.
First, society would establish recreational facilities and dating and counseling services to foster responsible relationships between men and women. The dating and counseling services would keep track of the dating histories of men and women and would record the results of interviews of themselves and of the persons they dated. These services would help people recognize the level of their interpersonal skills, their attitudes, and levels of maturity and commitment and help them to meet appropriate people to date.
Of course, people would not be forced to use these services. The services and the recreational facilities would need to be sufficiently valuable and attractive that most people would want to use them. If the purpose of these services were well understood, people would willing to find out how well they actually worked. Undoubtedly many adjustments would need to be made by those offering the services and by those using them.
Second, each nation and each major regional subdivision of each nation would undertake a study of the factors affecting the life prospects of children at birth. These studies would assemble the statistical data already available and determine what other data-gathering was needed. The factors whose effects were to be ascertained would include (1) the socioeconomic level of the household in which the child was to be cared for, (2) the education, emotional stability, parenting skills, and self-management skills of the parents or guardians, (3) the genetic profiles of the parents, (4) the quality of child care and educational systems to be used in rearing and educating the child, and (5) who was to take care of the child: natural parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, a nanny, or a child care center.
A third recommendation is that studies be made of abortion counseling practices in a variety of localities. Attempts would be made to determine what types of counseling was done by physicians, by professional counselors, by parents, and by peers. Attempts would be made to determine how effective this counseling was in: (1) identifying the life prospects of the unborn child, (2) remedying any defects in birth control practices, (3) improving future relationships with persons of the opposite sex, and (4) analyzing the effects that the alternatives of having an abortion and not having an abortion would have on the life of the woman who was pregnant. Attempts would then be made to determine and to publicize ways in which counseling from each of the sources could be improved. Attempts would also be made to direct abortion counseling toward men as well as women.
Fourth, efforts would be made to improve training in moral development and sex education. Children and teenagers would be trained to be able to describe and recognize each of the moral virtues. They would be trained in moral deliberation. Sex education would include knowledge about sexual attraction and factors affecting relationships, about sexual exploitation, about embryonic and fetal development, about the birth process, about child development (physical, mental, and moral), and about birth control measures.
Fifth, studies would be made of restrictions on abortion and requirements for interviews and counseling in various parts of the world. Attempts would be made to determine the effects of these policies on the parents and on the offspring and the effects on the number of abortions performed per year.
A sixth recommendation is that until more is known about the effectiveness of various kinds of legislation it appears appropriate that the following be done:
a) Provide free or easily affordable abortions to all who are not financially able to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter for the unborn child, who are emotionally or mentally unfit to care for a child, or who can obtain a statement from a licensed physician stating that serious harm to them would result from continuing their pregnancy.
b) Allow abortions but impose a high surcharge for them, payable to the state, to those not eligible under Rule a).
c) Require that before an abortion is performed the pregnant woman and, if possible, her partner be interviewed and counseled by a physician and a professional counselor to guide the man and woman individually in forming mature relationships in the future, to ensure that decisions to have an abortion are not made lightly and that all appropriate factors have been considered, and to remedy any defects in knowledge about birth control measures.
A seventh recommendation is that each nation develop a child care system that gives children the best possible loving, attentive, and developmentally wholesome care and gives parents great flexibility as to how much of the child’s care they themselves provide. The child care system would be operated in a way that requires children and teenagers to receive training and participate in child care. The system would provide training and practice in parenting skills to adults and, where needed, education about child development.
It is also recommended that each nation develop effective means of ensuring that men are held financially responsible for the children they procreate. In many nations this would be done through the income tax system.
The final recommendation is that studies be made of the effectiveness of national population control programs throughout the world and that international efforts be made to encourage effective policies to be adopted or developed. The same would be true of eugenic policies if and when such policies become feasible.
As indicated at the beginning, all of these efforts within the world society need to be pursued within the context of efforts to nurture the development of individual and collective abilities and virtues and the application of abilities and virtues to benefit of others. Abilities to enrich the spiritual lives of others as well as practical abilities are needed.