The Value of Human Life
Before attempting to derive a satisfactory solution let me state that I do so as an intellectual exercise and have no particular axe to grind ... nor do I have any personal interests in this matter.
Whatever may be decided, it will make no great difference ...
I say this even though some will argue forcefully that it will. The reason for the lack of effect will be that law of itself has no effect on morality. People will still harbor the same ill or good will toward their fellows. A small difference will be a greater or lesser number of "new" individuals added to the population depending on the wording of any change in abortion law. Some lesser difference will be observed in the authority granted to speakers for or against the dominant philosophy. The issue itself will go on however ... regardless of outcome.
Matters of Quantity
As a general rule:
Hence, gold is more valuable than tin.
Hence, one human life is lessened in value by the gross increase in the population of Earth.
If there were trillions of beings inhabiting the solar system (a very remote possibility), of what value would that being be to his civilization as a whole? His value would be nil. Only his friends and family would care in the least. Conversely, if you were to travel for hundreds of miles before seeing another person, would not his value then be increased?
When commentators deride the callousness of our times they overlook that death and poverty are ubiquitous and cannot be expected to engender empathy. Morality has not lessened ... rather ... the quantity of people has increased so markedly as to cause disinterest.
Now, let us consider a single human cell. How little its value when compared to the whole organism. We lose and destroy them by the millions daily. Hence, the value of genetic information in general - its specific embodiment being the cell - is of miniscule importance.
Consider then the ovum. Its value is no more than any other cell (qua cell). It's value is entirely "potential". It is different from any other cell by virtue of the fact that it might become another unique individual. The key word is "unique". Any cell might (one day soon) be cloned to make another similar individual. However, an integrated aggregation of cells is considered of greater value than one cell for the same reason that a Renaissance painting is considered of greater value than a Modern smear painting.
One may then rightly conclude that the ovum possesses the least value in this issue and that social-moral-political value increases as the fetus grows and ... potentiality becomes actuality.
The body of a fully grown man (of itself) is no more valuable than that of any other large mammal. Imagine the mind of an adult replaced with the mind of a cow. What do we have? Another grass eating future hamburger. Imagine then, the mind of that adult placed in the body of the cow. Then this cow would communicate with us ... he will find a way ... and we should be loath to kill and eat him.
Hence, it is the information contained within the brain which has the only true and enduring value.
Again now, by this criterion, the ovum has least value and the adult most and the dead body of a man least again. We lose value when we deteriorate in mind and body due to aging or disease or lack of thought. We gain value, as we age, [as actuality] and lose it at the same time [as potentiality]. Then, at some point we begin to lose both our potential and actual value due to age or infirmity until we are valuelessly entombed.
I've here defined the ovum as having least potential rising to maximum at about adolescence because the brain is not fully grown till then (excuse some inaccuracies here) ... deteriorating to physical worthlessness at death.
If we accept that potentiality is no more or less "valuable" than actuality, we may simply multiply both as equal constituents of value (i.e. P x A = V). The most valuable individual (as these things go mathematically) is then the adult at about 30-40 years of age. And this comports with the general attitudes found in civilization, e.g. the death of a man participating solidly in his career with children to support is seen as a great misfortune whereas the death of a man approaching retirement with grown children is less of a misfortune.
We can see then that abortion at an early fetal stage corresponds roughly to unplugging life support from a dying elderly patient (another somewhat knotty ethical problem). The end of life has much in common with the beginning.
What special points are reached in development?
Clearly, there is no obvious cutoff point in the development of the fetus to which we could point and say "Beyond here abortion should not be done". At least none is immediately apparent.
By my own insights, there is a special point in development which might have a bearing on the case. It is that moment when the fetus becomes self-aware. I have no realistic idea of when this occurs ... only that is must occur ... and ... the fetus must have moving-working hands and arms for it to occur. If this were at 3 months, I would favor that as a cutoff point but this occurence does not distinguish man from other animals ... it merely distinguishes him from inanimate matter and perhaps insects and other lower creatures who are probably not self-aware. Certainly, it occurs at least three months before birth.
There are those who assert that the ovum and/or fetus has a "soul" but such a term has no meaning divorced from thought. In fact, the only event that could be called the acquisition of a soul occurs at about one year after birth ... the toddler stage. At this point, the child acquires his master standard of judgement which he uses to organize all information gathered throughout life (see Nature of Man). Those who propose early fetal souls do not know what they are talking about. They regurgitate the ideas of others without understanding ... and those who originated the idea did so without adequate reflection, (aka - "revelation").
There are also those who give admonition to the effect that "You may be killing the next Beethoven". Of course, this is countered by its symmetric inverse, "You may be killing the next Hitler". So this argument is obviated.
What about the rights of the woman?
From the viewpoint of the mother-to-be all talk about "fetal rights" must seem bizarre since her consent is mandatory. No baby is born without at least the passive consent of the mother. There are any number of things she can do or not do which would lead to a failed or endangered pregnancy.
It is often stated that one individual cannot be forced to act on behalf of another (mother to fetus) and that forcing a pregnancy to conclusion by legalistic means is tantamount to slavery. This is a good argument in favor of some abortion rights and in fact is always at the bottom of every effort to maintain abortion rights. Generally, when abortion prohibitionists argue for no abortion rights at all, their argument peters out when confronting the mother-rights fact with the weak, nonsense-argument that "even a blastula has a soul".
Other weak or moderate pro-abortion arguments:
The Rights of the Fetus vs The Rights of the Mother
No other issue will ultimately count in the final analysis.
Consequently, the issue will act as it does now ... like a swing. When it goes too far to one side, forces on the other will rise to return to equilibrium and beyond. The press will continue to use the abortion question for news generation which can "get a rise out of 'em", i.e. they push the swing. The issue will not be "damped out" but will continue to swing this way and that until it is seen for what it really is ... a non-issue.
No matter what anyone thinks, does or says, women will continue to get abortions, but as always most will not. You will continue to see horror stories about the subject. There are horror stories in every subject.
One should always remember that ...
This issue is actually already decided ...
The consensus of adult opinion in the United States is that abortions should be allowed early in the pregnancy but not in the last months. However, the government in its present form cannot handle approximations (fuzzy logic) ... it can only deal with exact statements.
For instance, what if the speed limit was 50 MPH ~more or less~ instead of 50 MPH? Our government, as currently constructed, cannot deal with such things. Hence, it would spin its wheels indefinitely trying to finalize that which cannot be finalized into a perfectly defined rule ... in principle.
That is what we are currently seeing ... the government in a self-referential quandary ... Buridan's ass.
The form of government I have designed can handle "fuzzy law" as well as exactly defined law. It is the philosophical equivalent of adding quantum mechanics to classical mechanics.
The best thing that could happen is perfect birth control ... Put some infallible chemical in the water supply so that no woman could get pregnant without going to bottled water (sans chemical). But I don't expect this for a very, very long time ... if ever.
Without perfect prevention ...
Were I a doctor and a woman came to me for an abortion at the 7th month of a normal pregnancy ... I would refuse to do it ... and ... give her a metal coat hangar ... saying, "I hope ya' die".
And if one came to me before three months I would tell the do-gooders to "Mind your own business".
Obviously, somewhere in between these two states, "I" would be in the quandary ... but ... I have the 'male' option ...
yours to bear ... be they good or ill.".