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Discussing abortion from a Taoist perspective

Advocates from the U.S. for abortion rights can support safe abortion in other countries to eliminate barriers to accessing abortion care says Jiatong Shen

Tables can be turned all of a sudden. This time, it was Roe v. Wade’s turn. On June 24, 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court.

A landmark decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, Roe v. Wade protected women’s liberty of abortion. In doing so, it improved U.S. women’s welfare by providing them with a solid bolster towards abortion as a legal practice in the U.S. regardless of the woman’s socioeconomic status or location.

Such support is able to powerfully prevent the future trauma of raising the child amidst financial hardships or being bound to care for children born with diseases or disabilities, and these statements are mutually beneficial for the growing-up trajectory of those kids.

Unfortunately, those benefits are no longer sure to exist after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, undermining women’s reproductive welfare.

“Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they had in the morning,” wrote Kamala Harris on Twitter, vice president of the United States, on June 24.

From the perspective of the Tao.

The overturn of Roe v. Wade can be analyzed from the perspective of the Tao. The Taoist theory claims, “Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.” Taking no action, as a central idea in the book Tao Te Ching, advocates for doing nothing and letting everything follow the rule of nature, and that the authority should encourage the idea of peace by being generous with the situation and attempting to prevent the use of force.

The ideal ruler shall adhere to the Tao, namely non-action, which clears the state of disputes. Through non-action, without undermining a person’s rights and autonomy, there will be no rebellion triggered, and thus will order prevail.

From a Taoist perspective, the overturn of Roe v. Wade as a force added anxiety to women’s reproductive liberty as opposed to the previous consensus on defending women’s abortion rights. In turn, rebellion will arise to defend reproductive rights and liberty at the cost of a peaceful society.

Advocates will try every means to fight for abortion rights as long as the decision of each state is still in the air. Abortion will never be stopped by force. Rather, it is safe abortion that will become illusive because of the regional differences, complexity, and inconveniences created by the Roe v. Wade overturn.

Falsify the intention.

Taking a step back, if we assume that the overturn of Roe v. Wade can be justified, the intention of the Supreme Court of taking a pro-life position cannot hold water. Pro-life refers to the standpoint of those who excuse illegalising abortion for protecting the human right of human fetuses.

However, it is debatable whether fetuses truly have human rights, given that most human fetuses cannot be considered as having personhood. Personhood is what distinguishes humans from animals or artificial intelligence, which can be measured through factors including self-consciousness, agency, morality, etc. To begin with, human fetuses cannot be proven to be equipped with self-consciousness.

According to the contemporary philosopher David Chalmer, self-consciousness is personal in the way that you only know yourself to be conscious but not others, so it is almost impossible to justify a fetus as having self-consciousness.

Additionally, even a kid does not have the full capacity to practice full agency in their life, not to mention a human fetus. Finally, it is self-evident that a human fetus does not have morality because morality is something to be acquired later through immersion in society and conforming to social norms. Without satisfying these three core factors that determine personhood, no other factors can supplement the argument, and thus human rights are not something important enough for human fetuses to defend.

What Can Be Further Done?

Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, what further responsibilities should the U.S. take? From my perspective, the country should donate surplus abortion medical equipment and pass on advanced knowledge on abortion to other countries where abortion is still legal but may be underdeveloped.

Advocates from the U.S. for abortion rights can turn to support safe abortion in other countries, such as Vietnam and North Korea, to elevate the medical procedures and eliminate barriers to accessing abortion care.

Feature Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash


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Discussing abortion from a Taoist perspective

by Jiatong Shen Reading time: 3 min