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In this question: If conservatism believes in individualism, then why do conservatives often support regulation of personal decisions?, the questioner asks why right-wingers regulate "personal decisions", despite claiming that they believe in individualism.

I think that's a good question and probably exposes some of the hypocrisy in right-wing politics, however, one example of "personal decisions" that is mentioned in that question is abortion.

This is a bit bizarre, I think. Do people really consider abortion a personal decision?

I personally think abortion is one of the most non-personal topics in politics. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Abortion involves the life of somebody other than the person making the decision. There's the woman, and then there's the fetus. The decision is therefore not a personal one, since by definition it involves persons other than the woman.

  2. The second reason is that abortion, as it is typically discussed, involves a system where we, as a society, endorse facilities and resources so as to make abortion feasible (doctors, hospitals, medicine, etc, etc, etc). When we say "abortion", we don't think of a woman performing the abortion herself, rather we think of society making certain services available for that woman. Hence, it is again a non-personal decision, since it involves other people providing a service. The woman does not perform abortion herself.

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    This sounds like you're trying to start an argument, which is not what this site is for (although I concede many other people do the same thing because they also believe this is a debate site). – user2565 Sep 1 '18 at 17:42
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    This question could be improved by removing everything including and after "I personally think..." – IllusiveBrian Sep 2 '18 at 3:35
  • I'm sorry, but the abortion debate is dominated by all kinds of ethical dilemmas which have no "right" or "wrong" answers. This makes this issue a matter of opinion and not an appropriate topic for a question&answer site. If you want to engage in the abortion debate, you might want to go to a more discussion-oriented website. – Philipp Sep 3 '18 at 12:44
  • "The decision is therefore not a personal one, since by definition it involves persons other than the woman." It's difficult to consider this question to be asked in good faith This is like saying "Why do some people not consider homosexuality to be a moral issue? Homosexuality is immoral, so by definition it's a moral issue." – Acccumulation Nov 24 '20 at 0:00
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Abortion involves the life of somebody other than the person making the decision. There's the woman, and then there's the fetus. The decision is therefore not a personal one, since by definition it involves persons other than the woman.

In general, people who support the pro-choice view contend that the fetus is not a person. This is supported by the logic used in Roe v. Wade. In the first trimester, abortion is a personal decision of the pregnant woman, as the fetus is not yet a person (as per Roe v. Wade). In the third trimester, when the fetus is viable outside the womb, then the state has more room to regulate abortion.

The general pro-life position is that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception.

As with any generalization, there are exceptions. Someone can be pro-choice and believe that a fetus is a human being. But many of those who are pro-choice argue that that is not true. As such, the personal versus non-personal categorization is part of the debate.

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    The trimester system for personhood was replaced by a viability standard (and the accompanying agnosticism) with Planned Parenthood vs. Casey in 1992. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ) – elliot svensson Sep 4 '18 at 16:27
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In short

Do people really consider abortion a personal decision?

Yes. The BBC has an article listing arguments in favour of abortion. A small snippet from that page:

This argument reminds us that even in the abortion debate, we should regard the woman as a person and not just as a container for the foetus. We should therefore give great consideration to her rights and needs as well as those of the unborn.

Regarding your points

Your first point:

Abortion involves the life of somebody other than the person making the decision. There's the woman, and then there's the fetus. The decision is therefore not a personal one, since by definition it involves persons other than the woman.

As you say, it also involves the woman.

The subject also came to the Supreme Court of the US, Wikipedia states the following:

The Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict it to the standard of strict scrutiny.

First part of your second point:

The second reason is that abortion, as it is typically discussed, involves a system where we, as a society, endorse facilities and ressources so as to make abortion feasible (doctors, hospitals, medicine, etc, etc, etc). When we say "abortion", we don't think of a woman performing the abortion herself, rather we think of society making certain services available for that woman.

I think this argument makes sense. The Huffington post writes about a recent case brought against Ireland regarding abortion:

It seems that substantive Irish abortion law is now explicitly ruled as compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. But the court held that Ireland should put in place a procedure where a woman can have a determination made as to whether her life is at risk due to being pregnant. Yet the law upon which such decisions will be based will remain unchanged.

Second part of your second point:

Hence, it is again a non-personal decision, since it involves other people providing a service. The woman does not perform abortion herself.

I don't think the first part necessarily makes the decision non-personal. Indeed, the European Court of Justice's decision referred to article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is about the right to respect for private and family life.

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In addition to the other excellent answers, another argument regarding the "two person theory" is that the foetus is initially a part of the woman's body. It starts as an egg and grows, totally dependent on the rest of her body for survival for months after conception. At some point it becomes a person, but there is no biological determination of when exactly that is because it is a continuous process.

The pro-life argument then becomes more about the potential to grow into a human being, but that's weak because the unfertilized egg also has that potential.

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  • Regarding that last statement, I don't think that's possible. It was even used as a joke on the popular tv show House M.D. – JJJ Sep 3 '18 at 13:28
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    @JJJ obviously it needs sperm to fertilize it, in the same way as the fertilized egg needs a blood supply and nutrients from the mother to develop into a human being. The point is that the cut off point for the "potential to become a person" is arbitrary. – user Sep 3 '18 at 14:06
  • If there is no determination when that is, then how do you know that it happens at all? – elliot svensson Sep 14 '18 at 21:03
  • Your direct paternal ancestor from 200,000 generations ago was a fish. At what point along the line did your ancestors become human beings? It's a continual process, there is no point at which it suddenly happens. – user Sep 15 '18 at 13:10

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