The Hedonistic Nature of Abortion
Updated: Jul 25
Hedonism is a philosophical doctrine that states that the supreme good in human life is pleasure. It differs from Epicureanism in the sense that while Epicureanism seeks pleasure, it tends to focus mostly on happiness through fulfilment, or simply tranquillity. Therefore, it tends to avoid excesses that might derive from an individual’s most destructive vices. Hedonism, however, does not possess the same specificity and therefore does not possess the same restrictive nature of Epicureanism’s ideals.
Hedonism’s main focus is on the concepts of pain and pleasure, considering pain is to be negative and pleasure to be intrinsically good. While we, as a society, like to think that we aim for something closer to Epicureanism in our search for happiness, taking a more minimalistic approach, there are a few examples to show that Hedonism is the driving philosophical force behind our current Western lifestyles. The fundamental flaw of Hedonism is that the search for pleasure does not necessarily need to include concepts such as morality of basic levels of humanity. There are already a few examples of this, be it consumerist culture or the inner workings of capitalism, and while those topics are worth a reflection, I will be focusing on a specific topic that has not yet been extensively related to hedonism: Abortion.
Throughout the majority of western European countries, abortion has been legalized. While differing in the ways and periods in which it can be applied, we can clearly see the hedonistic nature of abortion on demand. The limitations on abortion used to limit its use to cases of rape, deformities, incest, protection of another human being’s life, etc. All of these concepts based on ideals of morality and humanity. Furthermore, we still see this reflected in the law.
In 2012 in South East Wales, Carl Whant was jailed for 35 years for murdering a pregnant teenager. Among his convictions, there was one that is unknown to most people, mostly due to the rarity of the crime itself: the destruction of his victim’s unborn child. If one is to deliberately kill the viable fetus of an expecting mother, such is still a crime known as feticide or child destruction. It varies in penalty according to where it is judged but could go all the way to life in prison.
As a society, we recognize the validity and humanity of an unborn fetus; if we did not, such laws regarding child destruction would not exist. However, if the expectant mother does not want the child, she now has the option to abort without any of the original limitations that were put in place to protect the morality and humanity of a civilization. This has now led to a situation where a child’s value depends solely on a mother’s willingness to let it live.
The fact that there is an inconsistency of this magnitude, where there is only value in a fetus’s life when a mother’s subjective opinion grants it, only goes to show the level of hedonism we have allowed to influence our collective ideals. It is only through a hedonistic mindset that one can attribute humanity to another human being, solely keeping in consideration if it will only grant oneself pleasure, or pain. If it is associated with pleasure or an individual fulfilment regarding motherhood, it can be considered human, and so let it live; if it will become a problem, or a source of pain and stress, murder it. Another example of an argument of hedonistic nature would be that it is prefferable to have an abortion than to bring a human being into a world of poverty and suffering, as if live itself loses value if one is unable to enjoy constant or even sporadic pleasure.
We tend to keep our conscience clear of matters of this nature through policing language and willfully ignoring this reality. Examples of this are the usual adjectives used to back up pro-abortion advocacy: it is not being anti-life, it is about being pro-choice.
It isn’t murder, just a woman’s right to choose. All of which are epithets of a hedonistic nature: it is about a woman’s ability to manipulate a source of pain or pleasure, choosing that which is bound to make her feel better.
Be it when it comes to abortion or other areas of life, a hedonistic mindset will always lead to an alienation towards basic principles of humanity and decency. No need to deal with the responsibility of one’s decisions: there is not such a thing as a harmful consequence, and therefore no need to control one’s impulses and desires. If we allow hedonism to infiltrate all areas of our collective thought, this is the final consequence. The obliteration of the limitations that grant us the societal environment that allows us to thrive. The normalization of subjectivity over objectivity. Feelings over facts, seeing as facts are not always bound to make us feel good.
Abortion is the perfect example to explain how hedonistic behavior is a societal disease that, if not kept in check, will deprive us of the basic ideals of humanity and replace them with the most primitive and emotional behaviour. It will dilute that which makes us human. In fact, it already has. Let us only hope that abortion will at least revert to the restrictive nature it had in the past. But it is equally important that when it does, we do not forget all of the children that we have allowed to be sacrificed on the altar of hedonism. For it is an example of what we, as human beings, can become when our priorities are ruled by vice and not objective good.