BLOGDizzying Logic from Princeton Prof Tries to Justify Abortion as “Morally Good”

By Natalie Wyman Posted on: | August 15, 2017

Picture this: you’re a college student who has been having an affair with a married man. You discover that you’re pregnant. The father, of course, wants nothing to do with the baby, and you have very little money and a degree to earn. What do you do?

In a YouTube interview with James Franco, Liz Harman, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, attempts to answer that very question. (And yes, the video is just as bizarre as its description. Watch it here). 

Admittedly, the first time I watched the video, I snickered at James Franco’s facial expressions and rolled my eyes through much of Professor Harman’s attempts to morally justify abortion. But the second time I watched, I became more disturbed by Harman’s logic in defense of abortion. Frankly, it was terrifying.

The core of Harman’s logic is this: if a fetus was never meant to become a human being, then its mother is not morally wrong in terminating the pregnancy. By Harman’s terms, a fetus is not a future human being if it dies in the womb through abortion or miscarriage. Therefore, fetuses who die in the womb because of abortion did not have moral status to begin with because their mothers chose abortion. And because they did not have moral status, abortion was a morally justifiable decision.

Are you as dizzy as I am from this circular reasoning?

Professor Harman insists that her logic is not circular, and we could argue about that all day. However, the important point in all of her confusing logic is this: she is making inherently pro-life arguments.

Let’s examine her two main assertions: 1) a fetus that is aborted dies in the womb, and 2) the fetus’s moral status is derivative of its future. Those who are pro-life believe that abortion is the killing of an unborn baby, and they believe that fetuses are worth protecting because they are human beings who have the right to life. While Harman is obviously defending abortion (or is at least attempting to do so), her assertion in the immorality of aborting fetuses that have a future outside the womb is an incredibly pro-life stance.

Unfortunately, Harman is avoiding the next logical step: all fetuses have a right to life – not just those that a mother decides should have a future.  

Remember the pregnant college student at the beginning of this post?

While Harman and her circular logic would have deemed aborting that woman’s fetus as not “morally bad,” I would argue that all fetuses inherently possess the inalienable right to life and therefore aborting any fetus is “morally bad.”

But of course, I’m biased – the woman in that story was my mom’s birthmother. Without her choice to keep her inconvenient fetus and give that future human being up for adoption, my mother would not have been born, and my wonderful grandparents wouldn’t have had a daughter to adopt and raise and love. Not to mention, my sister and I wouldn’t be here today, nor would any children we will have and any children they will have. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Harman’s logic is dangerous because it chips away at the very foundation of our moral society: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Inalienable: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred.

Our country was founded on the concept that all of us inherently have these rights, and no government or other person can ever alienate, surrender, or transfer our rights from us.

Professor Harman claims that “the future endows moral status on [the fetus], and if we allow it to have this future, then we’re allowing it to be the kind of thing that has moral status.”

This logic is disgusting and dangerous. We do not allow a fetus to have a future and therefore a moral status. Fetuses have a moral status because all fetuses have a future.

And that future is worth protecting.


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Natalie Wyman

Legal Assistant I

Natalie worked as a lobbyist at the Family Foundation of Virginia and a grassroots associate at Heritage Action for America before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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